Customer Reviews of Churchill
An excellent biography by a magnificent writer.
Every decade or so a new biography emerges on Winston Churchill, usually not of quality, or containing new substance. I am a big fan of William Manchester's multivolume 'Last Lion' study, and was happily surprised to find new and interesting content presented here in a very readable manner. Roy Jenkins has incorporated some revisionist views, and wonderful prose in what may be the most accessible single volume biography of Britain's most often quoted politician. It is a magnificent piece of work and is highly recommended.
No figure in 20th century British history has received more biographical attention than Churchill. Can the general reader profit from yet another biography? Most readers of Roy Jenkins' new study will likely answer with a resounding "yes!"
Jenkins, the author of excellent biographies of Baldwin, Asquith and, most recently, Gladstone, has provided interesting and provocative insights into Churchill's career as politician, statesman and writer. Jenkins dosen't lay claim to comprehensiveness (see Martin Gilbert's multi-volume study and his companion volumes of documents for this), nor does he provide new or revelatory information. In fact, though the hardback edition of this work exceeds 900 pages, some aspects of Churchill's staggeringly large and diverse life are (necessarily) not treated thoroughly; Churchill's private life and his interest in empire are two areas which come to mind.
Yet, the strengths of this work vastly overcome any such minor shortcomings. Having been a member of Parliament for many years as well as a Cabinet Minister, and (also like Churchill) an accomplished author, Jenkins bring unique insights into Churchill's political, ministerial and writing careers. The problem for any biographer of Churchill (except Gilbert, who considers everything), is which material, which aspects of Churchill's life to emphasize. Jenkins selects the right ones and Churchill's personality inevitably emerges: a man of unbounded energy, consummate political skill and (during Britain's darkest (and finest)hour) brilliant leadership.
Still, Jenkins does not neglect his subject's shortcomings: Churchill was ambitious to a fault, at times petulant, more often inconsiderate of his subordinates. The very human portrait which emerges commands our respect and admiration all the more and will leave many with the same conclusion reached by Jenkins--Churchill was the greatest man ever to occupy 10 Downing Street.
Jenkins has an easy, if somewhat erudite style which I found compelling. But, for those unfamiliar with the outlines of 20th century British history, this work may appear puzzling at times. A brief glossary of British political terms at the start provides some (limited) help. The text also include a few color plates of Churchill's most interesting paintings.
A political biography: shows workings of Churchill's genius.
This is a wonderful biography. Jenkins has an easygoing story style that is fun to read. He also opens the door and shows the internal workings of Churchill's greatness.
So many "great man" biographies concentrate on great events and great decisions, to the exclusion of understanding the unique contributions of the man. This book examines the political and literary education which Churchill brought to the table in World War II, the great and small dramas which marked his long accomplished life.
Writing a master work on Marlborough was a form of self-education, as was Churchill's history of the English Speaking Peoples. Both elevated his expectations for the British people in war, and he lead them to fulfill his elevated expectations. The historian as leader....
Endless parliamentary debates, including some very real humiliations, gave Churchill a tempered sense of what he could accomplish -- this idealist was probably only ready to lead at age 65, because this education broke against the prow of his stubborn sense of right and wrong.
Jenkins captures these formative influences with nuance and drama. This book is an excellent one-volume biography, and provides a daunting argument that life's challenges educate a great leader in a rough and tumble; that self-education also plays a role; that meeting great challenges is the work of a lifetime; that losing and defeat play their role...
By the way, this book is not bloated, as one review says, unless you prefer the comic book approach.
We Americans tend to see Winston Churchill through the prism of a few months during the Battle of Britain when he stood alone in the world against the Nazis and fascism. As fascinating and dramatic as that period was, a full length biography of Winston Churchill gives the reader the proper context to appreciate Winston Churchill as the leading political figure of the 20th century. Roy Jenkins has authored an extraordinary book that only he as former M.P. and minister could write. The nuances of 10 Downing, Westminister, and Whitehall might elude other historians, but Jenkins knows all the slights and symbolisms of parliamentary politics. Jenkins concludes that Churchill was the greatest British prime minister of all. That's not an easy judgment from Labourite Jenkins who also wrote the award-winning biography of Gladstone. This book is a neccesary addition to the Churchill bookshelf.
IF WE CAN'T HAVE MANCHESTER?
Like most students of the life of Winston S. Churchill I was anxiously awaiting the third volume in the Last Lion series on Churchill's life by William Manchester. Sadly Mr. Manchester has recently announced that, due to extreme health issues, his much-anticipated book would never be written. Having read the first two books I was absolutely stunned.
After the shock wore off I immediately began the prospect of finding a biography that would complete the Churchill history and do it in a way that would complement my earlier study through the Manchester biographies.
May I recommend Churchill by Roy Jenkins. This book, written by a man who has the unique perspective of actually having served in Parliament and in a variety of other important posts in British government, masterfully fills the void. Concise and well written, Churchill by Roy Jenkins is easily the finest single-volume biography of Britain's greatest leader.