Churchill: A Biography Hardcover – Nov 15 2001
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Winston Churchill was querulous, childish, self-indulgent, and difficult, writes English historian Roy Jenkins. But he was also brilliant, tenacious, and capable--in short, "the greatest human being ever to occupy 10 Downing Street." Jenkins's book stands as the best single-volume biography of Churchill in recent years.
Marked by the author's wide experience writing on British leaders such as Balfour and Gladstone and his tenure as a member of Parliament, his book adds much to the vast library of works on Churchill. While acknowledging his subject's prickly nature, Jenkins credits Churchill for, among other things, recognizing far earlier than his peers the dangers of Hitler's regime. He praises Churchill for his leadership during the war years, especially at the outset, when England stood alone and in imminent danger of defeat. He also examines Churchill's struggle to forge political consensus to meet that desperate crisis, and he sheds new light on Churchill's postwar decline. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Winner of the Whitbread Prize for Gladstone (1997), Jenkins offers a bloated yet idiosyncratic and accessible life of England's greatest modern prime minister. Jenkins's wry wit and judgments of great men, untainted by awe, partly offset the fact that, as he admits, he has few new facts to add to an already exhaustively recorded life. Jenkins has a propensity for unnecessary French and curious adverbs (unfriendlily), adjectives (spistolatory) and nouns (peripherist) and is at his best exploring Churchill's three out-of-office "wilderness" periods and his writing jobs (requiring a staff of loyal, ill-paid researchers and secretaries to take his clangorous dictation), which helped support his expensive lifestyle. ("I lived in fact from mouth to hand," Churchill confessed.) But as the statesman's many decades wind down, the biographer himself seems to tire, resorting to a litany of itineraries. American audiences may be drawn to Jenkins's revisionist views of Churchill's relationships with Roosevelt, with whom he sees "more a partnership of circumstance and convenience than a friendship of individuals," and with Eisenhower, a "political general" who was "always a little cold for Churchill's taste, with the famous smile barely skin-deep." Jenkins is hard on Churchill for being soft on alleged mountebanks like Lord Beaverbrook. He dwells only briefly on Churchill's family affairs, aside from expressing skepticism about his reputedly warm marriage to Clementine; she often advised her husband wisely, but "managed to be absent at nearly all the most important moments of Churchill's life." Jenkins's judgments and the fact that he has boiled this eventful life down to a single volume will attract many readers to this entertaining, though often exasperating study. 32 pages of photos and maps not seen by PW. (Nov.)Forecast: A main selection of both BOMC and the History Book Club, with a respected author, who will tour New York and Washington, D.C., and an iconic subject, the biography is guaranteed media attention and sales.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Having said all that, even this book is incomplete, missing sections of Churchill's life and background, and somewhat skipping over certain interesting aspects of the man. Realistically, though, that's true of every Churchill biography I've read.
Jenkins has heavily researched Churchill's life and accomplishments, and the book is divided into sections that relate to different time periods. While most people will be interested in the second world war timespan, its the earlier years that shaped Churchill, for good and for bad, and show some of his machinations as he worked his way through the government. Throughout all the sections, though, Jenkins writing style helps present huge amounts of material in a readable manner, keeping you engaged. This isn't a book to idly page through, but one that does require effort by the reader to register the content and the analysis, but it pays off with insight into one of the most interesting figures in history. When this book was first released, I read it through over about a month, and a second read through recently has not diminished the subject matter or the author's skill one bit: this is a definitive, albeit slightly incomplete, biography.
The material is carefully organized within six Parts: A Brash Young Man (1874-1908); The Glow Worm Glows: The Morning Was Golden (1908-1914); The Noontide Was Bronze (1914-1918); Hesitant Afternoon Sunshine (1919-1939); The Saviour of the Country and the Light of the World? (1039-1945); and Was the Evening Leaden? (1945-1965)
The metaphor of a 24-hour cycle works generally well, correctly suggesting significant and revealing correlations between British (indeed global) history and Churchill's own life and career during the same 91-year period. Obviously, Jenkins greatly admires Churchill but does not hesitate to acknowledge his subject's human imperfections, notably his vanity, self-indulgent extravagances (e.g. cigars and champagne) and his sometimes volcanic irascibility.
For me, two of Churchill's most interesting relationships analyzed skillfully by Jenkins are those with wife Clementine and with Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She adored him even as she never hesitated to suggest (with exquisite tact) his need to improve his "people skills." How much I would enjoy being the proverbial fly on the wall if she and Lady Bird Johnson were able to discuss their husbands over a cup of tea.Read more ›
For those who may not be unaware, Roy Jenkins was a leading British politician who, in post-war years was a fellow Member of Parliament alongside Churchill - although of a different political persuasion. In his preface, Jenkins describes having met Churchill as a boy and observing him at work in later years - although he is very careful to admit he did not know the man. With an honest and intuitive comment, he also declares his belief that a biography does not necessarily demand or even profit from such personal knowledge and that such familiarity can “distort as much as it illuminates.”
Any biography should be a dispassionate account of whoever is under the microscope and should include those good, bad and even ugly aspects which combine to comprise the very qualities which made that subject exactly who and what they were. As biographies go, this is a first-class work. As a life story on Churchill, this will very probably stand the test of time to become recognised as the best ever.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Roy Jenkins gives us an exhaustively-researched biography of Winston Churchill. It is a complete treatment which deals with Churchill’s early years, family life, writing projects,... Read morePublished on June 26 2013 by John M. Ford
This is a biography by a writer who admires Churchill, yet it notes many critical points in Churchill's career. Read morePublished on Jan. 27 2013 by John W. Chuckman
Perhaps the greatest tribute to the work of author Roy Jenkins is that, at times, he seemed to know what Winston Churchill was actually thinking - and you're pretty sure he's... Read morePublished on June 9 2004 by Rolf Dobelli
First off, its important to note that this is a political biography and focuses on Churchill's career in parliament, not his family or friend relationships. Read morePublished on March 19 2004
This book, while well researched, is a tedious read. Overwhelming detail in areas of limited relevance tend to clutter excellent underlying content and compromise big picture... Read morePublished on March 19 2004 by David D.
marginally better. This unabridged audio version of Jenkins book came in two parts, part one slightly longer. It takes Churchill's life to 1940. Read morePublished on March 18 2004 by JOHN GODFREY
I found this book to be a difficult read--and even more difficult to finish. There are parts that stick out as great tales of Winston Chuchill. Read morePublished on Jan. 7 2004 by Ben D. Cherniavsky
I do not want to get into the accuracy of this book since I am not a Churchill scholar, or comment on if it is political or fair etc. Read morePublished on Dec 30 2003 by J. E. Robinson
Is there any more fascinating figure than Winston Churchill? I have found him interesting since I read a children's book on him back in 1972 and continue to find him interesting to... Read morePublished on Dec 20 2003 by M. A Newman