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Churchill: A Biography Hardcover – Nov 15 2001

3.7 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; First Edition edition (Nov. 15 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374123543
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374123543
  • Product Dimensions: 15.8 x 5.6 x 24.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #381,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on June 4 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a massive volume and yet (perhaps inevitably) incomplete which suggests the epic nature and scope of its subject. As a single-volume source of information and analysis, I rate this just behind Sir Gilbert's biography but it is a superb achievement nonetheless. At least to some extent, this is a memoir of Jenkins' own experiences during "The Churchill Years" during which he (Jenkins) was centrally involved in the British government.
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.
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Format: Hardcover
Perhaps it takes a politician of Roy Jenkins’ stature to write a work worthy of a man who was once described as “The greatest living Englishman.” Whilst not an uncommon surname, the very word “Churchill” conjures up an image of one man and one man only. That man was Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill - soldier, journalist, painter, Nobel laureate, politician and leader of nations. I am not given to defacing books but I well remember being 15 years old when this great man died and going to the school library to read a short biography of his life. Directly after his name were brackets inside which was printed the year of his birth followed by a dash and a blank space reserved for the year of death. Having read the item, I carefully wrote “1965” into that blank space and closed the book.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Roy Jenkins died recently and his obituaries were many, detailed and lengthy. He is remembered both as a skilled politician of the first rank both in Britain's Labour party and then as a co-founder of the Social Democratic Party with David Owen and Shirley Williams. And as a superlative political biographer of the first rank with definitive works on Gladstone, Asquith, and, now, Churchill.
Your reviewers' very broad range of reactions to this biography are entirely consistent with the reactions Churchill himself produced during his long career. Never was a british politician more hated, reviled, loved and honoured than Churchill. Indeed, during the Thirties, it appeared that he would go down in history as a politician who missed greatness by a significant margin.
Jenkins has achieved a political biography that is readable, clear and, for its subject matter, concise. His distinguished political career in the House of Commons gives him a unique ability to evaluate Churchill as a man of the commons, the quintessential parliamentary practitioner.
He starts by evoking Churchill's remarkable early years, where he moved from an undistinguished school record to daring and arduous travels as a soldier/ journalist. Wracked by money troubles most of his life, we read entertainingly of Churchill's correspondence with his mother, the slightly scandalous, and frequently broke Jenny Jerome as they commiserate/ complain to each other about their stratitened circumstances.
There was in Churchil a tremendous need for power, one that often went unsatisfied. He achieved extraordinary political success at an early age (by the standards of the times) but then his career stalled severely. He was trusted neither by the Liberals nor by the Tories (and at times by very few others).
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