“Erik Larson has done it again! With years of impeccable research into diaries, archives, dossiers, biographies, and official British documents, he has presented an intimate and detailed account of Winston Churchill in his first years as prime minister as he dealt with the London Blitz and his own personal and family issues. This is Churchill as few of us can imagine, in his silky pajamas entertaining major dignitaries at his weekend retreat, all the while continuing to reassure the British people during their darkest days that they have what it takes to withstand the German onslaught. The Splendid and the Vile reads like an engrossing novel, with all the fascinating details and facts that Erik Larson can provide.”
— Gail Meyer, The Bookstore Plus Music & Art, Lake Placid, NY
#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The 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
“Churchill’s lessons of resilience and his style of steady-handed leadership are essential to the state of mind of American readers.”—Vanity Fair “A bravura performance by one of America’s greatest storytellers.”—NPR
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.
About the Author
Erik Larson is the author of five national bestsellers: Dead Wake, In the Garden of Beasts, Thunderstruck, The 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.
“An enthralling page-turner.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
“Through the remarkably skillful use of intimate diaries as well as public documents, some newly released, Larson has transformed the well-known record of 12 turbulent months, stretching from May of 1940 through May of 1941, into a book that is fresh, fast and deeply moving.”—Candice Millard, The New York Times Book Review
“Fascinating . . . The entire book comes at the reader with breakneck speed. So much happened so quickly in those 12 months, yet Larson deftly weaves all the strands of his tale into a coherent and compelling whole.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“I have an early copy of this book on my desk and idly began reading the first pages—and suddenly time disappeared.”—The Seattle Times
“The popular historian Erik Larson has done it again. As I read this book, I kept wondering what the swelling of powerful emotion was that I felt, sometimes in an almost physical sense. (I’m a naturally undemonstrative Englishman, rarely moved by words on a printed page.) Then I realized that, as a Londoner, it was a feeling of overwhelming pride in my poor, brave, battered old city, which stood up to the very worst that Hitler could throw at it for months on end, while still somehow keeping its dignity, cheerfulness, and iron resolve not to surrender.”—Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny, in Air Mail
“Exquisitely researched. . . . Erik Larson weaves a fascinating yarn out of everything he turns his attention to, and his latest book—a terribly moving tale of Blitz London and Churchill’s campaign to persuade the United States to enter the war—is no exception.”—New York Post
“Nonfiction king Erik Larson is back.”—PopSugar
“A propulsive, character-driven account of Winston Churchill’s first year as British prime minister . . . Readers will rejoice.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“What Larson brilliantly provides are the finer details of the effects on England as he focuses on the family and home of its dynamic, idiosyncratic, and indefatigable leader. . . . Larson’s skill at integrating vast research and talent for capturing compelling human dramas culminate in an inspirational portrait of one of history’s finest, most fearless leaders.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A captivating history of Churchill’s heroic year, with more than the usual emphasis on his intimates.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A fascinating mix of the largest and smallest scales in human affairs. Larson blends domestic drama with the destruction of cities to riveting effect.”—Shelf Awareness