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Showing 1-10 of 1,198 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,496 reviews
on October 31, 2012
I have been nervously awaiting this book for years. My first encounter with Manchester came when volume one first came out. I was a child, and I went to visit my grandmother (who was in London during the Blitz); she held the book up to show me what she was reading. "The man." she said. "The great, great man."

Years later, I read the first two volumes almost in one sitting - couldn't put them down - and have reread large parts of them over the years (every time I looked some piece up I'd find myself sitting down for an hour or two because I couldn't stop). I remember when Finest Hour reported that the trilogy would never be finished: it was like a punch in the stomach.

I had my doubts about the ability of another author to write worthily of Manchester, and I was afraid this volume wouldn't measure up. No need to worry: this is every bit as much a page-turner as the last two volumes. It's not QUITE Manchester - I thought I could feel a bit of a difference in style, somehow - and yet it IS extremely good, much better than I had expected.

Like the first two volumes, we begin with a preamble ("The Lion Hunted") in which we are (re-)acquainted with the book's subject. There is a certain amount of repetition of material from the two earlier preambles, but much good new material as well. I've read thousands of pages on Churchill, but even I found some good new anecdotes and quotations here. After that we're hurled right into the middle of the most dramatic days of World War Two. The unexpected, catastrophic defeats; the incompetence and perfidy of the people in charge of France - it doesn't take much from a writer to make this an exciting story, and yet I don't think it has ever been told better than this. Really, just what I had hoped for from Manchester himself. If the later parts of the book don't quite keep the same level of excitement, neither do the events they recount.

My only complaint is the ending: really, the book just stops. Read the end of volume II: I would have expected Manchester himself to end with a climactic summary, perhaps returning to his major insight from the start: the central significance of Churchill in history is that he was a product of the late nineteenth century who was able to bring the virtues of the era of his formative years to life again at a time when they were needed, and when the British people were not yet too far from them. Actually, I do have one other complaint, and it's with the publisher: the dust jacket doesn't match the first edition dust jackets of the first two volumes. Doesn't look as good on the shelf as I would have liked.

All in all, this is a worthy final volume. Manchester himself would be proud, and there can be no doubt that this trilogy would be Churchill's favourite biography. Highly recommended, to fans of the first two volumes and newcomers alike.
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on May 27, 2016
This is the last volume in a wonderful series of books on Winston Spencer Churchill. I am almost finished with this last book and have learned quite a bit about the man, the country he loved and lead through one of its most challenging times. When you read about all the people Churchill met and worked with or against you can’t help but want to pick up more books to satisfy your curiosity that the book(s) generate. This book was rather big but well worth it. I don’t understand reviewers who found it boring because of the details – you want the details. The details are written in an engaging style that actually have you wanting to know even more details (e.g. Roosevelt’s history or Stalin’s history outside their relationship with Churchill or his representatives).

The book is about more than Churchill who was really a 19th century gentleman in the 20th century trying to keep the British Empire intact. The writing was on the wall when Churchill saw himself lose influence as the two super powers emerged from WWII – the Soviet Union and the USA. I actually felt sorry for him! I also hated him for his myopic view of “brown” people and how they compared to Englishmen but his thoughts and ideas were quite understandable from reading the first two volumes. Was he a great man – he certainly was. Was he flawed – of course – what great man isn’t? The three volumes made learning about Churchill the man who steered, encouraged, and held the mantle for the people and government of England a total delight to read. This third volume was not written by William Manchester and does not have his enjoyable and delightful style of writing but it does hold its own and does a fine job of completing the history of WSC. I cannot recommend this enough for anyone who likes to read, wants the details (e.g. comments from others in their diaries on their feelings about Churchill) augmented by information about the wars and other historical information that took place throughout the life span of the man.
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on March 11, 2016
The 1st of a 3-part biography of Winston Churchill, covering the first 58 years of Churchill's 91 years, from 1874 to 1932.

Some highlights:
As a boy he was fascinated with toy soldiers. He would go off to war in India at the age of 21.
His father did not like him because Winston did not apply himself in school and he would get into trouble.
A tragic school prank was played on his father, Sir Lord Randolph Churchill, when in college. His friends drugged his drink and the next morning Randolph woke up next to a prostitute, who gave him syphilis. This limited relations with his wife, Winston's mother, who became involved with many prominent men.

Like his father, Winston aspired to become a member of Parliament (MP). He became a skilled orator, winning the respect of many but also alienating many with his sharp tongue. Early in his political career he was vilified for switching parties. He somehow would win re-elections even though he often had few supporters in Parliament.

He married Clementine, with whom he had 5 children, and they would for the rest of their lives exchange great affection for one another. In 1921 they endured the tragic death of their 2½ year old daughter Marigold, who died of septicemia, possibly from the hesitancy of a nanny.

He was made head of the British navy. In wanting to relieve the slaughter of thousands in the trenches of WWI, he devised a strategy which would require Germany to take soldiers off the front lines, possibly allowing victory for the Allies. Sail the British navy past Gallipoli and through the Dardanelles Strait and into the Black Sea on Germany's flank. For this failed attempt he was wrongly blamed for many years. Churchill took part in WWI, given the command of a brigade. He was fearless (foolhardy?) and would stand up in the trenches giving instructions to his men while German bullets whizzed by him.

Having lived through Britain's golden age of world supremacy, he wanted to maintain British rule over India.
He fought depression his whole adult life, and found oil painting as a wonderful distraction.
As a schoolboy, studying the Scriptures was part of his curriculum. The day he became head of Britain's navy, Clementine quoted him Psalm 107:23,24. And before going to bed that night, Churchill read Deuteronomy 9:1-3.

This is a great book about a great man.
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VINE VOICEon November 17, 2012
Many readers of Paul Reid's The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm will have a single overriding question as they crack open this enormous (1,000+ pages) book: is it worthy to sit beside its two magnificent predecessors in this three volume life and times of Sir Winston Churchill? I am happy to report that it is. Those who have waited over 20 years to see this work finally completed will be well satisfied with Reid's volume, which is nearly as long as its predecessors combined.

As it was with Manchester's volumes, Reid opens with a preamble on Churchill's personality, lifestyle, family, and work habits. Totaling nearly 50 pages, it serves as a magnificent reintroduction to Churchill and readies the reader to rejoin Churchill as he enters the most important phase of his life: preparing England to play her great role as the lonely guardian of the freedoms we too often take for granted from 1940 until Hitler invaded Russia. Reid carefully explains how Churchill accomplished this, making clear why, for all his pettiness, oddities and foibles, he is, undoubtedly one of the most remarkable people ever to have lived. For without Churchill, the English likely would not have stood against Hitler. Had the English not stood against Hitler, he may well have had the strength to conquer Russia or at least expel her from Europe. Accomplishing that would have left him and the Nazi party rulers of the continent, and perhaps more, for decades. One shudders to contemplate the consequence of such an epoch.

Reid's volume is not only a fine biography, but an extremely detailed account of World War II from the British perspective as well. Also, he decided to reverse Manchester's decision to end his work with the termination of the War, extending his coverage to include Churchill's post war career and life. As a result, the three volumes stand as a complete life and times of the Great Man. Like Manchester, Reid does not stint the little details that bring the reader into the story, making them feel as if they are weekending at Ditchley with Churchill as he works his magic on visiting American visitors to convince them of England's will or in the front bench in the House of Commons while he is delivering one of his many famous orations.

You can't write a history exceeding 1,000 pages without errors and Reid does not. For instance, Lyndon Johnson is identified as the "Majority Leader" of the House Armed Services Committee, playing a key role in Lend Lease. There is no such position nor was there any committee with that name until 1946. World War II buffs will likely raise other niggling errors that naturally arise when someone not steeped in its history attempts a retelling on this massive a scale. One also wishes for more than 100 or so pages on Churchill's 20 year post war career in a book than devotes 950 pages to 1940-1945.

But to dwell on this is pettiness, and must be seen in the light of Reid's magnificent gift to those of us who love to study Churchill. It may lack the aura of authority of Gilbert's official biography or the succinctness of Addison's brilliant short study. At the end of the day, though, Manchester/Reid's 2500+ pages will allow us to come as close as possible to being in Churchill's presence throughout his incredible life as any book can do. Accordingly, it joins its predecessors as an indispensable volume for Churchillians.
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This book is a great achievement in the art of writing and historical research. Manchester is a master!

Churchill is an endless source of inspiration and a role model of manliness. The first book of the series Last Lion shows the first 58 years of Churchill's life. Manchester demonstrates that even if Churchill wouldn't become the second world war hero he would be remembered as a remarkable man and politician.

In my opinion, the most interest features of this first volume are the follows:

1) The detailed account of Churchill childhood which presents the lack of his mother attention as one factor that displays a great influence in his personal development.
2) An impressive analysis of Victorian Era and a truly convincing argument that Churchill was a man who shares the values of his time. He was a hero of XX century, but it is a noticeable fact that he won his first election in the XIX century.
3) His partnership with Lloyd George in the implementation of social reforms in Britain in the early XX century.
4) A very detailed account of Churchill participation in Gallipoli's crisis.

It's a long book (over 800 pages), but it's worth each minute spent in the reading!
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on July 10, 2017
This was a fitting finale to one of the best political biographies of one of the most important political figures ever written.

Mr. Reid is an astute writer, perhaps providing a more balanced view of WSC than William Manchester did. By this I do not mean Mr. Manchester is the lesser writer, just that the previous volumes were written by an active participant in great events, i.e. Manchester's service as a Marine in Okinawa. Such individuals have a unique and vital perspective on our world in the 1940's and tend to focus on the high-minded actions and brutal choices the leaders of the Alliance faced as an explanation of their own selfless heroism and sacrifice.

There are other Churchill biographies or books which cover his wartime exploits, however this one benefits by Messrs. Manchester & Reid being American and focusing on the hesitancy or obstinacy of America's wartime leaders in assuming the mantle of leadership Churchill plainly saw for us. Its all there.
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on October 10, 2016
This 1053 page book (plus 29 pages of index) is a thorough description of the life of one of the greatest men in history, Winston Churchill. It covers 1940 to 1965 --his political rise, supremacy, and slowly waning but still powerful later years until his death at age 90. It tells of his leadership in Britain throughout the rise of Germany under Hitler, of his many meetings with Roosevelt and Stalin, and the eventual rise of Soviet Russia, of war worldwide, of the creation of various regional alliances including NATO and the United Nations. It tells of his habits, expressions, family, friends, and cabinet members who worked with him.
Throughout the book, the authors use diaries, letters, newspapers, radio quotes, and other vital sources of other world leaders as well as those of Churchill. The reader follows the rise of Roosevelt and Hitler and Stalin, Eisenhower and de Gaulle, as well as the death of Kennedy and the beginning of the atomic age and hydrogen bomb. This book is an intimate look at a great, unique world leader who led his country and the world with his perspective and intuition, his written and spoken world. It is a MUST for anyone wanting to learn about World War II and its aftermath.
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on January 28, 2017
Not as well written as volumes one and two (which Manchester personally wrote), but still fantastic. I know a lot about this period, and still learned a great deal. Every chapter is engrossing. Manchester's deep research strips away the myths and lies that tend to clutter even high-quality histories of WWII.

The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965
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on December 12, 2015
William Manchester's iconic series about Winston Churchill is iconic due to the outstanding insights and factual accounts of Churchill himself and his Supporting cast with in the United Kingdom. Manchester vividly brings the reader a near " you are there " feeling immersed in the thunder and destruction caused by German bombs during the London Blitz in the early 1940's. The energy, free thinking and uninhibited qualities of Churchill, the leader, are demonstrated over and over through Churchill's strategic free thinking, uninhibited personality which protected him from outside criticism of his administration. Manchester captures Churchill's prescient thinking and his ability to predict what certain military strategies and tactics would lead to in the post war. Manchester also points how politically incentivized Franklin Roosevelt was as he picked and chose what he did to support the war in Europe as it related to his re-elections. The generals, Montgomery, Eisenhower, Marshal, Bradley, Mountbatten and Brooke are all interesting and examined to include their military prowess as well as their individual personalities and idiosyncrasies. Families and travel challenges in the mid 20th century, while understood, are emphasized as Churchill and Roosevelt struggled with their travels to meet together and with Stalin. The last element of this thoroughly fascinating book is the infinite sacrifice of millions of Russians on the eastern front of the war in the Balkans. The impression some have espoused is the U.S. drove and led the winning of the war. The U.S. fueled the eastern and western fronts through it's unbelievable level of production supplying England and Russia with the necessary tools of war. However, the blood and treasure sacrifice made by the Russians was every bit as important as the other allies, if not more. Millions of soldiers and civilians were killed after the Germans ignored their treaty and invaded Russia. The last element the reader will ind interesting is the level of Russian aggression as they drove west from Stalingrad to Berlin with no compunction about never leaving the geography across which they traveled. This the reader will learn is responsible for many of the worlds problems during
The 45 years after the end of the war. If a reader wants to better understand the world in which they grew up and why it is the way it is today this book lays out the seeds of for the second half of the 20th century. AN EXTREMELY GOOD READ !
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on December 26, 2012
William Manchester, and his appointed successor Paul Reid, have successfully and thoroughly concluded the life story of the greatest British statesman of the 20th century, and one of, if not the foremost statesman of the Second World War.

In spite of several reviews that diminish the work because Paul Reid took over from William Manchester, and the contention was that Reid was not as good a writer, I have to take exception to the charge. I could not tell where Manchester left off and Reid began. The writing is excellent, and yes, there is a world of information, especially about the war, but in all fairness to Reid, he had to cover this ground thoroughly because it was such an important part of the long and productive life of Churchill.

Having read a good deal of the war and Churchill, I still found many things of interest in this book. One good example is the excellent information on the Battle of Britain, when England stood alone in the face of the Nazi menace. We all know of the long odds against the British and their bravery in fighting off the Luftwaffe during this critical time, but the book introduces us to the British Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding. Mostly disliked by the people around him, and essentric in his own British way, it was Dowding that was the champion of radar as far back as 1937 when he ordered work to begin along the eastern and southern coasts with a chain of stations, some of which were low-level with ranges of 50 miles and the others, high-level with a range of 120 miles. This enabled the British to detect German squadrons in many cases before they entered the English Channel. It was this radar that helped them to scramble fighters to meet the menace as it approached the island. COnsidering that Dowding in July, 1940 had eight hundred single engine aircraft to hold off a much larger force, it was in a sense, a miracle for Britain. The German Second and Third Air Fleets were comprised of 750 bombers, 250 Stuka dive bombers, 600 Bf109 fighters and 250 twin Bf110 fighters, but Dowding placed the emphasis on knocking out the bombers and not getting into dog fights with the fighter escort. Goring tried to keep up appearances and lied about the results, but the German strategy was changing. And, even though they knew the location of the two factories that Rolls Royce used to build the Merlin engines, they never bombed these facilities. By September, Hitler elected to concentrate on London and bomb the British to the peace tables. That did not work out well for Adolph.
Another important person in all of this was Lord Beaverbrook, who worked in producing the aircraft needed to fight this air battle. In July, 1940, British workers produced 496 fighter planes, which was an astounding accomplishment. In addition, Beaverbrook's Civilian Repair Organization was busy salvaging parts from fighters shot down over England and in some instances, were able to resurrect German planes that would next fly as a RAF craft.

It is without a doubt that 1940 was Winston's best year, although in many ways the darkest for England. They stood alone. France had fallen, Europe was a Nazi land mass, Hitler and Stalin were beginning their workings toward an alliance, and America stood away from the fight largely because of the isolationist movement and FDR's firm decision not to let his political foes take him down for getting America involved in the war. And while the RAF had performed splendidly in the air, the evacuations from Dunkirk were still fresh in everyone's mind and England was in a sense, a nation with a moat around it awaiting landing barges to finish them off.

In a large sense, it was Churchill's determination that led England during this dark time, and yet, Churchill's big problem was that he knew he could not challenge Hitler on the continent, and thus tried to snipe at him in other areas, which largely centered throughout the Mediterranean Sea. For a time, North Africa enjoyed some success, and then Rommel appeared and the British were once more in flight, and add to this the humiliating surrender of Sinapore in the Pacific, and greatly in need of a victory. Churchill began to draw criticism because of the lack of victory, and then Montgomery gave him a sound victory over Rommel at El Alamein and this got the monkey off of Churchill's back.

Finally, by the end of 1941, America was in the mix and the English were no longer alone. By June of 1942, Hitler had invaded Russia and the Allied effort, while still recoiling from defeats, at least had the potential to break the enemy's back.

There is a great deal of information about the war and especially the workings between American and England. Both Eisenhower and Marshall favored an invasion in France, while Churchill looked to menace the Germans along the periphery, thus the invasion into North Africa (Torch) and the later invasion on the south of France (Anvil, later renamed Dragoon). As during the first war, Churchill's designs as in the Dardanelles, was to go around instead of directly at. The American logic was simple: cut to the chase, go the shortest route and kill the beast. The American version won the day, certainly at the urging of Stalin, who was losing in civilian and military casualities, 10,000 people per day (YES PER DAY), and had no sympathy for what might turn into a high kill rate. England was very deadly in their night bombings of German cities (especially Hamburg and Berlin)but that was not impressing Stalin, who continued to demand more, and quite rudely. Churchill had to contend not only with Uncle Joe's bad manners but also FDR's vision of a world after the war where Britain played a lesser part.

Much of this story shows, as it should, how events unfolded during the war, and how Britain and Churchill began to be overruled by Stalin and Russia. In effect, this war broke England and WSC was faced with the grim knowledge that after the killing was over, England would no longer be a first rate world power. It was certainly not the role that Winston wanted to play, but the inevitability of losing most of the empire was there, and FDR was probably the most heartless in his desire to see that England was no longer a colonial power.

The books shows us a large support cast. Of interest was Winston's only son, Randolph. Randolph was just not a happy man, and while his father loved him, he was a contrary person. His sister Mary later wrote that he could pick a quarrel with a chair. He married the beautiful Pamela Digby who ditched him for Averill Harriman. I hate to be ugly, but he looks like Clementine in drag to me.

Overall, I think this is a fine conclusion to the story of one of the most interesting people in the history of our modern world. As the author/s points out, you would likely have to go back 400 hundred years to the reign of Elizabeth I to find the strength of character of such a leader of the British people.

I very much recommend this book to anyone interested in Churchill.
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