The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (Signed Book)

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz (Signed Book)

by Erik Larson

Hardcover(Signed Edition)

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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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593237175
Publisher: Crown/Archetype
Publication date: 02/25/2020
Edition description: Signed Edition
Pages: 608
Sales rank: 3
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.90(d)

About the Author

Erik Larson is the author of five national bestsellers: Dead WakeIn the Garden of BeastsThunderstruckThe Devil in the White City, and Isaac’s Storm, which have collectively sold more than nine million copies. His books have been published in nearly twenty countries.


Seattle, Washington

Date of Birth:

January 1, 1954

Place of Birth:

Brooklyn, New York


B.A., University of Pennsylvania, 1976; M.S., Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 1978

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The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Tangen 2 days ago
historical-places-events, historical-research, history, nonfiction, Great Britain I wouldn't normally read a book about Churchill because of his causing the Anzac massacre at Gallipoli, but this author is known for meticulous research and crediting. This intense scrutiny of the man, his aides and allies, family, and the people of Great Britain during a time for the space of a year when they were under fire in every sense of the word. Hitler and his minions were going about their murderous business, France fell, and the Americans had their heads in the sand. This book humanizes not only Churchill but those around him as well. I was surprised to find myself reading on for long periods of time. It's that well written. I requested and received a free ebook copy from Crown Publishing via NetGalley. Thank you!
Anonymous 3 days ago
When one thinks of Winston Churchill, one thinks of the caricature of him. A quirky, imposing man, smoking a cigar, directing England’s response to the war from the Cabinet War Rooms and often dictating war directives from his daily bath. What Erik Larson brings to THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE is so much more than the usual version of Churchill. Larson provides a humanization of him, his cabinet, staff, and family, from the beginning of the war through the end of his first year as Prime Minister. Just like his other books, Larson is meticulous in his storytelling, making you feel like you are on the ground, in the thick of it with the rest of England. Larson’s typical readers will love this novel. I was teasing it to my father in law, and he’s already heard of it and is excited to read it. But I wasn't sure how I would like it, as I am not one of Larson’s typical readers, having read only THE DEVIL IN THE WHITE CITY about 15 years ago, and history is not my preferred genre. It turns out it was not a problem, as I found myself drawn in from the outset. History and humanity brought color to the tough subjects of lost lives and political strategy. It read like a fiction novel because the cabinet members were so full of character and nuance. I also enjoyed the keen sense of place throughout. You could see London experience the bombing as if you were there yourself, and could easily imagine walking through the hills of the country and coming upon a downed Luftwaffe bomber, left in place to prove the point that the RAF was doing its job. The fact that I never felt like "oh, another bombing scene" as I read this book shows Larson was able to do what many authors focusing on WWII have not been able to do for me before. I do wish more women would have been shown in more serious roles, and not just in party scenes or only as war observers. We see Churchill’s youngest daughter, Mary, grow up through war times, but I would have loved to have seen Clementine Churchill (his wife) more, and other women who, no doubt, played minor but essential roles in history. 4.5 stars for incredible writing and keeping this history-genre adverse reader hooked through 464 pages of wartime grief and triumph. If I were to visit London, I’d be sure to pair this book with a trip to the Cabinet War Rooms (recently renamed Churchill War Rooms), as well as the Imperial War Museum in London. Thank you to Netgalley and Crown Publishing for a chance to read this complimentary advanced reader’s copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
labmom55 3 days ago
Erik Larson is my favorite author of nonfiction. He writes books that just grab me as well as always teaching me something new. Looking back on Churchill, it’s easy to assume he was always loved and admired. But that’s not the case. He had many detractors on both sides of the pond. Larson does a wonderful job of giving us a flesh and blood Churchill - kimonos and all. His strength lay in being able to give the English hope and a willingness to fight on. After his moving speech about fighting on and never surrendering, he turns to a colleague and says “and...we will fight them with the butt end of broken bottles, because that’s bloody well all we’ll have left”. While Churchill provides the locus of the story, it is much more all encompassing. We learn exactly what England was up against in that first year of war. It’s the details that he gives us that stick with me. On the first massive bombing of London, it’s the “dust from the age of Cromwell, Dickens and Victoria” that rains down on everyone and covers everything. His choice of quotes are always striking. It’s the perfect blend of the monumental facts and the minute detail so that you have a complete picture. I came away with a much better understanding of what the Battle of Britain was all about. I had not understood how much of England, not just London, was subjected to the horrendous bombing. And it put me in awe of the English ability to withstand such horror. My thanks to netgalley and Crown Publishing for an advance copy of this book.
Anonymous 15 hours ago
This is a very engaging and compelling examination Great Britain's role as the last line of defense against Hitler's Nazi Germany, with a particular focus on Winston Churchill, his family, and his professional inner circle. In this book, Larson focuses on a pivotal twelve-month period (May 1940 to May 1941); this narrow focus enables him to delve more fully into the idiosyncrasies and human frailties of the principal decision-makers and those around them. Ironically, by demythologizing Churchill, his family, and his coterie of advisors and confidants, he ends up pointing up their extraordinary courage, persistence, prudence, and pragmatism--virtues which persist despite the fact that these were human beings under immense pressure. The fact that this book presents Churchill and others as fully-drawn characters also makes the work compellingly readable--this is most certainly not a dry tome of mere dates, death tolls, or technical minutia. My only critique of the book is that there occasionally seemed to be too much detail on tertiary and quaternary characters, but in many cases they eventually ended up being tied back into the main narrative thread, so the attention was mostly justified even though the story seems to wander a bit afield at times. If readers are looking for a comprehensive history of World War II, or even of England's role in World War II, they will likely be disappointed, but readers seeking a focused window into the personality, thinking and decision-making processes, virtues, and idiosyncrasies of Winston Churchill and those around him will find this an engaging, fascinating, and absorbing read.
Shortcake5 1 days ago
I thoroughly enjoyed White City by Erik Larson so when The Splendid and the Vile became available I was excited I was given a copy to review! Who is the most well known British leader that fought so hard for freedom during WWII that there are quotes galore on great leadership and the way to unite during tragedy? Winston Churchhill. Erik Larson gives us an in-depth look at what it takes to win a war, give us the quirks that Churchhill was famous for although not worldwide known to the youth of today. I hadn't known a lot about Churchill's family so this was a great educational read for me. This is history written so well that it is smooth, easy to imagine and given to his readers by one of the great writers of the times. This is Non-fiction for those who don't like to read Non=fiction. Thank you Netgalley for letting me read this book in lieu of my honest review.
SheTreadsSoftly 2 days ago
The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson is a very highly recommended portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz. This riveting nonfiction account reads like a novel. I will always read anything Erik Larsen writes and have done so since I first read Isaac's Storm. The Splendid and the Vile continues Larsen's excellence in nonfiction. This is an excellent compelling portrait of Winston Churchill’s first year as British prime minister. From May 1940 to May 1941, the German air force launched an assault against the city of London. The relentless bombing campaign was to terrorize and demoralize the population in preparation for an invasion. It is before the USA was in the war. Churchill had to hold his country together while continually reaching out to President Franklin Roosevelt. Larsen profiles Churchill, but also looks at those close to him including, in part: his wife Clementine; their 17-year-old daughter, Mary; their son, Randolph, and his wife, Pamela; his private secretary, John “Jock” Colville; Lord Beaverbrook; Frederick Lindemann, and others. He also covers the actions of Nazi leaders during this time. Larsen uses diary and journal entries from the people involved, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports, as well as other documents from the time. The people come alive as real humans living through an extraordinary time while under tremendous stress. The historical narrative is told through day by day events for the year. It is an eloquent, richly detailed and long account, but the historical facts are written in such a way that it reads like a novel. The history comes alive in this account. You know what is going to happen, but it is still a compelling, fascinating narrative that will grip your attention throughout. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Penguin Random House.
Ms-Hurst 2 days ago
It took me a lot longer to get into this book than the others by Larson that I have read. With Devil in the White City I was enthralled by both the World's Fair and Holmes stories. The way they were intertwined and one allowed the other to really happen was mesmerizing. Maybe it is just me, but I have so little interest in war that it took me a while to get into this. I never thought I was interested in Churchill. At some point, about 1/3 in, I realized I suddenly was interested. That is the genius of Erik Larson. He sucks you in to stories and subjects you didn't know you wanted to read.
bamcooks 2 days ago
This is a richly detailed account of Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister of Britain beginning in May, 1940, as France fell to the Germans and World War II was heating up. It includes stories about his family, friends, and staff, his dealings with President Roosevelt, and what life was like in London and outlying areas during the nearly nightly bombing raids. One comes to understand the meaning of perseverance in the face of adversity! It's an enthralling read and a very personal glimpse into the life of a great leader. Highly recommend. I received an arc of this new book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. Many thanks for the opportunity!
AllieT 3 days ago
For World War II buffs, The Splendid and the Vile will definitely be a pleaser, as it is meticulously and thoroughly researched. Focusing on the period between 1940-1941 when the German Luftwaffe launched a series of attacks on the British Isle, including London, Eric Larson offers a sweeping, yet intimate, account of Winston Churchill's experience of that period. As with all Larson's historical forays, the writing style is readily accessible to the non-academic reader, albeit at times the level of detail in this book can be mind-numbing and even tedious. That said, he does an excellent job of reminding American readers of details of WWII that are often lost in the current narrative of the so-called "Greatest Generation." For example, because the book focuses on the British experience prior to American entry in the war, the reader learns much about the momentous efforts by Churchill to get Americans to enter the war, knowing full well in the wake of France's surrender that without American support, Britain could only hold off Adolf Hitler for so long. These efforts were met with concerted opposition on the part of some Americans such as Joseph Kennedy, US ambassador to Great Britain and Charles Lindbergh, the flying ace and national hero who threw his support behind the isolationist group, the America First Committee. What the reader also discover is that due to isolationism, American military was in poor shape. As Time Magazine, at the time put it, “Against Europe’s total war, the US Army looked like a few nice boys with BB guns.” The reader is also treated to vivid descriptions of Churchill’s preference for flowery and flamboyant nightwear and his dancing habits. However, the book is at its best when it focuses on the experiences of ordinary citizens, recounting their perceptions and experiences of aerial bombing as part of the social research project, Mass-Observation. In 1939, Mass-Observation invited members of the public to record and send them a day-to-day account of their lives in the form of a diary. No special instructions were given to these diarists, so they varied greatly in their style, content and length. Thus, they provide an honest and often unseen perspective on war. Although I wish that Larson had spent more time on this aspect, given the countless pages already devoted to Churchill’s life, he has written an entertaining and informative popular history of this time period.
MaryND 3 days ago
I’ve read several books by Eric Larson—he’s a writer who doesn’t disappoint, and “The Splendid and the Vile” is no exception. Set roughly over the one year period between the time Winston Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain in May 1940 and the end of the London Blitz in May 1941, Larson’s account takes the reader inside Churchill’s cabinet—and his private life—through letters, memoirs and diary excerpts from Churchill, his wife Clementine, daughter Mary and daughter-in-law Pamela as well as the various ministers and private secretaries—even King George VI—who witnessed this tumultuous period of World War II. Larson follows the events of the year chronologically, detailing Lord Beaverbrook’s efforts to increase Britain’s aircraft production; meetings between Churchill and France’s leadership as the situation in France grew ever more grim; Dunkirk; the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz; and Churchill’s numerous requests to Franklin Roosevelt for American military aid. He also provides the German perspective, combing through letters and diaries from Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, Luftwaffe Chief Hermann Göring and German ace Adolph Galland to illuminate German attempts to subdue Britain. Scattered throughout are excerpts from the Mass-Observation diaries of ordinary Londoners and Larson’s own sharp observations, which for me really elevated this book and set it apart from other accounts I’ve read. Here’s Larson describing the morning after one of the first big raids: “For Londoners, it was a night of first experiences and sensations. The smell of cordite after a detonation. The sound of glass being swept into piles.” And a diary passage typical of the many fascinating accounts: “It’s not the bombs I’m scared of any more, it’s the weariness,” wrote a female civil servant in her Mass-Observation diary—“trying to work and concentrate with your eyes sticking out of your head like hat-pins, after being up all night. I’d die in my sleep, happily, if only I could sleep.” This is not an exhaustive military history or a Churchill biography—there are already plenty of those. But if you want a fly-on-the-wall look at Churchill’s first year as prime minister from all sorts of perspectives, “The Splendid and the Vile” is a fascinating must read. Thank you to NetGalley and Crown/Random House for providing me with an ARC of this title in return for my honest review.
RMeckley 3 days ago
I rarely read nonfiction, but the exception I try to make is to read Erik Larson's work, so I was excited when I received an ARC of his newest work. The story centers on the first year of Winston Churchill's tenure as Prime Minister. I started the book with good intentions, but unfortunately, the topic did not pull me in enough to complete the book. However, for those who enjoy historical fiction about World War II, you should add this book to your must-read list. Thanks to NetGalley for providing an ARC.
PaulsPicks 3 days ago
One may find dates and short descriptions in a text book, or you could sit through a lecture to get a bit more personality, or even watch a documentary to see some moving pictures… but you wouldn’t get the depth and insight that you do in an Erik Larson book. In The Splendid and the Vile his meticulous research and talented writing give readers a fascinating look into one year in the life of Winston Churchill. Starting in May of 1941, just before he takes office as Prime Minister, Larson details the conversations, the meetings, and the speeches, but also the eccentricities of the leader and interworking of his whole family. This year holds the surrender of the French, the beginning of The Blitz, and calls to isolationist America for help. Even though the book is weighty at just over 600 pages, the chapters are on the smaller size and are balanced well between the British side of the war and other points of view. The descriptions of the places are excellent and drew me in immediately to each scene. Another thing is Larson’s use of diary entries. Some are derived from the public who took part in a government project to get firsthand knowledge of the war. Personal Note: I have like now read all of Larson’s books, and while I love his writing style, I just liked the subjects of a couple of his pieces a better than others. The Devil and the While City and Thunderstruck were excellent books that contained little-known true crime mysteries. And his last three books (Dead Wake, In the Garden of Beasts, and The Splendid and the Vile) have been without much mystery and their topics have covered parts of history that one can readily find. His writing is always good and he certainly picks out smaller characters to highlight in the overall scenes of history, but I just liked the other books for their singular subjects. The Splendid and the Vile is an excellent piece of history. Perfect for that WW2 buff who is looking to expand their knowledge of one of the great leaders of the war.