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Book The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester (2015-04-23)


The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940 by William Manchester (2015-04-23)

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Review Text

  • By Raoul on October 31, 2012

    I have been nervously awaiting this book for years. My first encounter with Manchester came when volume one first came out. I was a child, and I went to visit my grandmother (who was in London during the Blitz); she held the book up to show me what she was reading. "The man." she said. "The great, great man."Years later, I read the first two volumes almost in one sitting - couldn't put them down - and have reread large parts of them over the years (every time I looked some piece up I'd find myself sitting down for an hour or two because I couldn't stop). I remember when Finest Hour reported that the trilogy would never be finished: it was like a punch in the stomach.I had my doubts about the ability of another author to write worthily of Manchester, and I was afraid this volume wouldn't measure up. No need to worry: this is every bit as much a page-turner as the last two volumes. It's not QUITE Manchester - I thought I could feel a bit of a difference in style, somehow - and yet it IS extremely good, much better than I had expected.Like the first two volumes, we begin with a preamble ("The Lion Hunted") in which we are (re-)acquainted with the book's subject. There is a certain amount of repetition of material from the two earlier preambles, but much good new material as well. I've read thousands of pages on Churchill, but even I found some good new anecdotes and quotations here. After that we're hurled right into the middle of the most dramatic days of World War Two. The unexpected, catastrophic defeats; the incompetence and perfidy of the people in charge of France - it doesn't take much from a writer to make this an exciting story, and yet I don't think it has ever been told better than this. Really, just what I had hoped for from Manchester himself. If the later parts of the book don't quite keep the same level of excitement, neither do the events they recount.My only complaint is the ending: really, the book just stops. Read the end of volume II: I would have expected Manchester himself to end with a climactic summary, perhaps returning to his major insight from the start: the central significance of Churchill in history is that he was a product of the late nineteenth century who was able to bring the virtues of the era of his formative years to life again at a time when they were needed, and when the British people were not yet too far from them. Actually, I do have one other complaint, and it's with the publisher: the dust jacket doesn't match the first edition dust jackets of the first two volumes. Doesn't look as good on the shelf as I would have liked.All in all, this is a worthy final volume. Manchester himself would be proud, and there can be no doubt that this trilogy would be Churchill's favourite biography. Highly recommended, to fans of the first two volumes and newcomers alike.

  • By Pete Santos on April 18, 2017

    This is an excellent finale to the three book series. I have read an awful lot about Winston Churchill by now. He was by no means a perfect person and this book does not represent him as such. But when it is all said and done,,,, Charles DeGaulle, (who had a complicated relationship with alot of the leaders of the Allies), had the band play Fr'ere Victoire when Churchill came to Paris.... And said it was "Only Justice" that it was so.Papa Victory....Father of the Victory pretty much summed it up. He stood up to Hitler when England was all alone and many in England were trying to figure out how they might arrange a truce. The darkest days of the initial German Invasion... he was in France as the Prime Minister.... He undertook grueling airplane trips to meet with Roosevelt in North Africa and Canada.... he went to Moscow via Africa.... he was not a young man at the time... I was impressed by many things about Churchill, his leadership. His willingness to put his own bacon in the fire without hesitation.... he was a great man and I don't think he is appreciated for how great he was.

  • By Barry Melius on August 23, 2017

    The century just past was a turbulent time and it drew the best and the worst out of many people. In Winston Churchill both aspects appeared frequently. At his worst he was a bigoted,imperialistic,pompous,vituperative windbag. At his best he was brilliant,farsighted,compassionate,heroic and possibly the finest practitioner of the English language since Shakespeare. He had the perhaps dubious fortune of being at the nodal point of so many of the crucial events in the first half of the last century. His life starts at the same time the British empire was reaching its peak and his career climaxed as the empire he loved was desperately over extended,but had one last hurrah before before it returned to being a small country on a small island.To read his biography is to immerse oneself into those times. The only question left is is the author up to the task. A frequent problem with biographers is that they fall in love with their subject. Manchester is certainly guilty of this and he skips over some of what could literally be considered crimes against humanity committed by a cold blooded and Machiavellian Churchill only to turn into a harsh critic a few sentences later. In Churchill's defense I could be writing this in German if not for those flexible morals,but Manchester also pointed out Mahatma Gandhi's principled stand against that same Churchill when it came to Indian self rule which arguably delivered as many people from tyranny as anything Churchill did or stood for. William Manchester had to be passionate about the subject to devote so much of his life to write this three part biography so I give him a passing grade because he seems to have held his tendency to gush somewhat in check. The only test left to pass would be the quality of his writing and on that I have few reservations,The Last Lion is on my short list for best modern biography. William Manchester was a gifted wordsmith and a treasure to armchair historians like me.

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