The Splendid and the Vile
THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE was not a book I wanted to read. Historical tomes that go on for 500 pages of small print aren’t my thing. But my book group was set to discuss it – and one thing about book clubs is that if you commit to membership, you owe it to the group to give every book a fighting chance.
The fight with this one paid off. And it was a fight. I looked at it and walked on past, then opened it, read the first 30 pages, and put it down. I skimmed the next chapters, reading the first sentence of each paragraph so that I had a vague idea what was going on. Then, without my realizing it was happening, I became enthralled with the characters, their country, and the crisis they were experiencing. I was positively glued to the last third of the book, reading every single word, such is the skill of this author.
Incredibly well researched and written, THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE documents a single year in the life of Winston Churchill. The dates are May 1940 to May 1941, Churchill was Prime Minister, and the Germans were bombing Britain almost nightly, in what became known as the Blitz.
What I loved about this book? Tidbits – about Churchill’s quirky habits and little-boy enthusiasm, about his youngest daughter’s grappling with her love life in wartime, about the letters Churchill and his wife exchanged daily. Military tactics didn’t interest me as much as diplomatic ones, notably what Churchill did to secure America’s help.
Mostly, though, I was fascinated reading about the mental well-being of the British people for the long, long nights they were under attack. Compared to our behavior during this pandemic, the fortitude of the Brits puts us to shame.
This is a very, very readable book!