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The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

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Erik Larson, John Lee

17 Hours 50 Minutes

Random House (Audio)

February 2020

Audio Book Summary

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers a fresh and compelling portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2020 BY The Washington Post • HuffPost • The Seattle Times • Lit Hub • The Week • PopSugar

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.
The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.

This audiobook includes a recording of Winston Churchill's 1941 Christmas Eve speech.

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  • Daryl C.

    A terrific read that I listened to with my wife on a long road trip - and loved it again! I have read many accounts of this time, including John Colvill’s diary, and love to continually fill in gaps as well as developing a clearer picture. I am presently reading the war diary of Field Marshall Alan Brooke and if you are looking for another side of this time this is a wonderfully illuminating read!

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  • Benjamin S.

    This popular book disappointed me because it was too much horrors if war and too little Churchill.

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  • Lee W.

    I enjoyed the book, the reader was a bit too monotone for my liking.

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  • Anonymous

    More detailed and personal Churchillian chronicle than anything I had read before on the subject and a compelling description of the frightful situation confronted by the targets of the Blitz. The narration was a bit flip and off-putting to my mind and somewhat distracting

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  • Jerbma

    This is not the first of this author's books I've read. I keep picking them up because of his impressive feats of research. The subjects he chooses to write about, while not for everyone, are told in such a way as to make something that could otherwise be bland into a fascinating take. Knowing that the author is actually inferring very little, instead drawing on archival material pulled from what seems like the unlikeliest of places, makes his stories fascinating to me.

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  • Anonymous

    Too much information for me. I guess I did t realize before purchasing the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Fabulous. Brings a real "You are there" intensity and insight to the innermost aspects of Britain's defense against Germany in the early days of WWII--including Winston Churchill's US strategy and his relationship w/ FDR.

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  • LEW L.

    Excellent excellent excellent

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  • Anonymous

    Woild have liked to see some clear type of ending

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  • Vaughn F.

    Great book. Meant to give it 5 stars. The narrator gets to be irritating as he does the character’s voices. Especially the females.

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