This is the third volume of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill. I first read the second volume, about the decade leading up to the German invasion of France, 25 years ago and thought it was so good that I bought and read the first volume. I had, by now, given up hope of ever seeing the third volume, but Mr. Manchester appears to have asked Paul Reid to complete the book and, when I saw it available on Audible, I immediately bought it.
This book is billed as a biography (and so it is) but Winston Churchill’s life was so intertwined with the British participation in World War II (he served as both Prime Minister and Defense Minister) that this book also serves as a political (not military) history of British involvement in the war as seen through British eyes. There is little military coverage per se but the political decisions behind the military moves are discussed in great detail. While this book covers the period from 1940 through 1965 (beginning where the second volume ended) it is primarily concerned with Churchill’s actions during the war with approximately 90% of the book covering the period up to the end of the war in Europe and his loss of the office of Prime Minister.
The book’s description of the political views of the Allies, its descriptions of the leaders and their conferences is really first rate. Mr. Reid has added liberal excerpts from the diaries of many of those involved, both Allied and Axis, and the resulting picture of how the war progressed, how the decisions that had to be made were reached and how the various participants reacted to the decisions transcends anything I have read before. I have read many histories of World War II, but all of them spent a great deal of time covering the battles whereas this book dwells primarily on the political decisions to be made and how and why the decisions were reached. The portraits of some of the leaders presented in this book are the best I have seen outside of biographies of those people themselves. The picture of Joseph Stalin, as presented in this book, is very different from that presented in other books, presumably because it is the view of him as seen by Churchill and his aides, not as seen by Soviet Marshalls or allied diplomats and one is drawn to the assumption that Stalin, like all of the other leaders, could present many different faces as needed. Similarly the portraits of people like Harry Hopkins, Cordell Hull, Anthony Eden, Alan Brooke, John Dill and others presented in this book seem much richer than I have seen in other books.
One of the books on my wish list was Max Hastings’ book “Winston’s War”, but this book is so well done and covers Mr. Churchill’s wartime involvement so well that I am not sure there is anything in Mr. Hastings’ book that would contribute much new and I am now uncertain as to whether or not it is worth buying. I thought I knew the events of the war from my earlier readings, but after reading this book I realized that there was much that either I did not know or which I understood imperfectly. While I do not wish to spoil this book for others I can say that I did not know how fragile the Allied coalition was at times during the war or how much disagreement there was between the British and the US on strategy. Yes, I knew that the US favored a cross-channel invasion and the British wanted to pursue a Mediterranean strategy but I did not know how strong the disagreements were, how dedicated some of the military and political professionals were to one choice or the other or how the final agreements were reached. This book is a treasure trove of information about how and why the political decisions were reached and I recommend it without hesitation to anyone interested in knowing the background behind these decisions. It is one of the finest books on the war that I have ever read.
The last 10% (or so) of the book covers Churchill’s life after he lost of the office of Prime Minister and after the end of the war. It covers, in considerable detail, his work in opposition to the Labor Party and his efforts to create a “United States of Europe”. While I understood how he, almost alone, understood the coming Nazi menace I was not aware of how he continued to predict the course of political events after the war. His foresight in seeing the coming cold war between the West and the Soviets and his efforts to preserve freedom and security during the late 1940s and early 1950s was new to me. It is also a very personal book and, at the end, I had tears in my eyes at the passing of such a great man.
The book is read wonderfully by Clive Chafer who does a passable impression of both Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. One reviewer complained that the book is read by an American, but that is only true of the introduction, which is read by the author. The rest of the book is a pleasure to listen to. This is a worthy conclusion to the monumental first two volumes of this trilogy and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
I bought this based on my fond memories of the Ellery Queen mysteries on TV. I always thought they were intelligently written, reasonably well scripted and smartly done and hoped that the books would be the same.
There were two things that struck me about this book in particular. One was that the language and social attitudes were very dated with both words and ideas that are now considered at the very least archaic if not something worse. The second is that the mystery itself was as well constructed as I remembered the TV shows to be with all of the needed hints provided along with a lot of red herrings. All in all it was fun although at times a bit tiring trying to deal with the old language.
While I was able to guess what was going on and who, in general, was the villain, the mystery was deep enough to make me stop and think about who it might be for some time before I came to a reasonable conclusion.
The book is well read and I enjoyed it, but I do not believe I will buy any more. One was enough to satisfy my curiosity.
Although I read a lot of histories I try to not read anything written by someone who is highly political unless I believe that sufficient time has passed to allow passions to cool so that I can get a reasonable view of the events and the reasons for those events. So, although I knew Mr Perlstein was, as one article said, A Man Of The Left, I decided that the 40 or so years that had passed since the events covered by his book was surely enough that I would not be reading some political screed or hit book. Shame on me for making that assumption.
I was both an adult and paying attention during the 1970s and it became clear to me fairly quickly that Mr Perlstein’s views of this period were highly partisan and the world he described seemed to quiver with the highly charged emotions of the period in spite of the passage of years.
In the author’s view:
1) those captured POWs who tried to prevent their use by the North Vietnamese for propaganda and chose to resist the torture they suffered are referred to with the derogatory term “spit and polish” soldiers. Among others this apparently includes John McCain who was tortured so badly that he can no longer raise his arms above his head,
2) Richard Nixon had no right to try to manage the optics of the POW’s return. This seems like an odd view since all modern Presidents try to control the optics of everything surrounding their term in office,
3) parents who are concerned about what their children are taught in Public Schools are fit subjects to be mocked. In the author’s view parent’s religious views are worthy of derision,
4) Ronald Reagan, who grew up with an alcoholic father, but managed to survive the experience and form a positive view of the world needed a psychiatrist to convince him how wrong he was in that view. In my experience children who survive that sort of childhood and have learned to be positive are called optimists and are to be admired, not mocked with the phrase “everything always works out in the end - gloriously”. Indeed, that phrase is used throughout the book as the author’s signature comment concerning Ronald Reagan.
These are but a few examples of the world view of this book and I could, but will not, list more but will only say that I found this book to be so partisan that I was only able to finish the first half. I had come across so many snide comments, half-truths and twisted facts that I was no longer able to continue trying to get through it. However, in fairness, I should mention that part of this book covers the entire Watergate scandal from its first notice in the news to the resignation of Richard Nixon and that coverage was complete and engrossing. It seems a shame that Mr Perlstein was unable to disassociate his dislike of Ronald Reagan from his writing of this book and description of the events leading to the fall of Richard Nixon and the rise of Ronald Reagan.
The book is well narrated but even Mr de Vries cannot rescue this book. While I gave the narration 5 stars the best I felt I could rate this book was 3 stars, given its extreme partisanship. If you believe that Ronald Reagan was duplicitous, untrustworthy and an empty suit and that the 60% of the voting population that gave him their vote for his second term were made up of ignorant and bigoted people, then this is your book. Otherwise, not so much.
When I finished this book I wondered why I enjoyed it so much. There are none of those common sci-fi gimmicks - no time travel, no super heros, no mind control, no super computers bent on wrecking havoc on the world. Instead what we have is a group of normal men and women assigned to an aging and obsolescent space ship who are thrust into the breach to try to hit back at an alien invasion. All of the characters are flawed in one way or another, one an alcoholic old Captain, one a promotion seeking aristocrat, one a reserve flying office with a dysfunctional family and so on. Basically a cross-section of humanity - real people with real problems.
And that seems to be the key to what makes this book so engrossing. The character development in this book is just wonderful. All of the characters are fighting their own real-life demons and trying to function as a crew, trying to devise a strategy to defeat the aliens or, at least, to come home alive. This story, of people and how they are dealing with life and death decisions, makes this book so engrossing that when I finished I regretted that I did not already have the second volume to continue the story.
The author is British, the ship and crew are British, as is the narrator and his performance is the only issue I had with this book. While the narrator’s voice is relatively easy to understand he has a tendency to raise and lower his speaking voice enough that I found the volume had to be relatively high to hear parts of the book while other parts, sometimes only separated by a couple of seconds, were then too loud to hear comfortably without the volume being turned back down. So, great book, good, but not great, narration. Now, on to part 2 …
This book had all of the elements of a good yarn. An “end of the world as we know it” nuclear war, good guys, bad guys and the struggle to survive the horror. It should have been a good listening experience but somehow fell through badly enough that I had to struggle to finish the book.
Perhaps I have read too many of this kind of book and have become jaded, but I just never really cared about the characters or what happened to them. In addition the story line was fairly predictable with the main bad guy showing up early in the story and the reader knowing, without any doubt, that he was going to be trouble for the main characters in the end. I never got the feeling that the main character was real, that his family was real or that any of the situations were real. When thinking about “end of the world” novels I usually end up comparing them to wonderful books like Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer and William Forstchen’s One Second After and, for me, this book just did not measure up.
The narration was mostly flat but not terrible, but Mr Snow did not have a great story to work with. All in all, a disappointment for me.
Lynne Olson has given us a very interesting and comprehensive study of the political “conversation” that went on in the US in the last couple of years prior to America’s entry into World War II. Her book takes us behind both the scenes and the public face of the organizations involved in trying to influence political opinion and decisions in the US and the story has all of the interest of current events. The main characters in the story are not only the high political figures in the US, Britain and Germany but also important figures in the US and foreign military, the US press and the general public. She describes in great detail the efforts both to drag the US into the war and the efforts of those opposed, not only to US entry into the war, but also to US help for Britain prior to Pearl Harbor.
The current myth concerning the run-up to the entry of the US into World War II is that Franklin Roosevelt led the US into understanding the need to help the British and his leadership in providing that help. Ms Olsons books shows a very different President - one extremely reluctant to get ahead of public opinion, making promises about help and then doing nothing to implement those promises, telling people he would do one thing and then changing his mind and always, always looking at the public polls before taking any actions. This book shows a President being dragged into providing help by the public which was always far ahead of him. This is not a new view of the pre-war years and Joseph Lash, in his 1975 book Roosevelt and Churchill, made the same point. But it is a point worth repeating because the facts belie the myth. This is not an anti-Roosevelt book and Ms Olson is anything but a conservative author but this book will be uncomfortable for some readers.
The tableau that the book covers include many of those involved in the “conversation” - Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harold Ickes, Burton Wheeler, Hamilton Fish, Gerald Nye, John McCormick, Frank Knox, Henry Stimson, George Marshall, Hap Arnold, Lord Lothian, Albert Wedemeyer, Joachim von Ribbentrop, J Edgar Hoover, William Donovan, William Stevenson, Charles Lindbergh and many others - and the story of their efforts to draw the US into the war, keep the US out of the war or try to straddle a middle course during the turbulent times, forms the core of the book and thus provides an extraordinarily helpful addition to understanding the period prior to US entry into the war. While there may not be much that is new here, the book is unique in that its subject is not the war nor the efforts to provide help to the allies, but rather the political and social arguments that took place leading up to the war that ended up providing that help. In that, this book provides a great service to understanding the period and hence the decisions.
The book also serves to dispel other existing myths. America First was founded by young student leftists, not by conservative politicians. Lindbergh was against US entry into the war because he believed we were unprepared, would likely be defeated and would lose our liberties at home. He was not a Nazi sympathizer nor did he want them to win. General Wedemeyer was not the officer who leaked the Victory Program papers to the Senate isolationist. And others.
Robert Fass’ narration is well done, although a bit show, and I did not hear any production problems with the recording. I did, however, have to play the book at 1.25 x speed to avoid the slow pace of speech. Once that was done the book flowed well with no problems.
This book is volume 4 in the 11 volume Story of Civilization by Will (and later Ariel) Durant. It covers the approximately 750 years from the fall of Rome through the very beginnings of the Renaissance in the areas encompassing Eastern and Western Europe (including Russia), the Middle East and Northern Africa. It does not cover events in eastern Asia (China, India, Mongolia and other related areas) although it is clear about the influence of those regions on the development of what we now think of as Western Civilization.
The book is very long (the Audible version is more than 61 hours in length) and the breadth of things covered is simply staggering including the early development of Christianity, early Judaic and Islamic civilizations, the Byzantine world, Feudalism, Chivalry, the Crusades, the development of the Catholic Church, the regional structuring of Eastern and Western Europe into what are now the counties of Europe, the influence of Jewish and Islamic culture on Western culture, the rise of Papal power over secular, the Medieval philosophers, the reopening of education to the populace and the rise of what Mr Durant refers to as the Era of Reason. Along the way we are treated to a virtual smorgasbord of information.
Here we learn the origin of many of our common use English words (for example, dollar, grocer, credit, debit, cash, wedding, Latin Quarter and many, many more), we meet the saint and sinners of The Dark Ages, the origins of Medieval banking, the origins of some current city names and a wealth of other information. Along the way we not only are presented with new information but often we find that much that we already knew was wrong. For me, one of the very instructive parts of the book was the description of Feudal Society and here I learned that much that is current common knowledge about the rights and obligations of Barons, Knights, merchants and serfs was, in fact, wrong. Here also we see how and why Feudalism lost its hold on Europe and how the cities and the merchants grabbed and held power, slowing reducing the influence and power of the Feudal Lords, including the monarchs.
While I personally found parts of the book hard to get through I found other parts simply fascinating and often found myself listening to this book with the same interest and zeal as I might listen to a best selling thriller. Some stories, like that of Abelard and Heloise, simply break the heart. Others, like that of Dante, are inspiring and often humorous and the most important thing I learned from this book is that things were often not as I thought them to be. This book, written more than 60 years ago, was like a breath of fresh air clearing out the cobwebs of misinformation I had stored in my mind.
The book is narrated by Stefan Rudnicki and I was at first disappointed that it was not narrated by Grover Gardner, as the previous volume was. However Mr Rudnicki did a wonderful job and, because parts of the book are in Latin, German and Italian (with translations into English), I found myself appreciative that Mr Rudnicki was able to speak the languages in question so well. His voice and pronunciation seemed to perfectly fit the material.
In summary this volume is simply wonderful and, although you may find parts boring, as I did, you will likely find parts enthralling and very, very informative. If you have an interest in the period which we sometimes refer to as the Dark Ages (and which Mr Durant makes clear was really a bridge into the Renaissance) you should not go wrong with this book.
I buy a fair number of these military scifi books but rarely buy the second book in the series. Often I find the characters too one dimensional, the situations too far-fetched and the story too full of fighting. It may sound strange that I would complain that a war book contains too much fighting but, in fact, war is more than fighting. The underlying situation has to sound reasonable enough to believe, the characters have to seem real for me to have any empathy for them and the world outside the fighting has to be interesting for me to be able to enjoy the book. War is politics as much as fighting.
I bought the first book in this series quite some time ago and relegated this series to the same category as most other books of this type - once was enough. But about 6 months after the first read I re-read it and found, much to my surprise, that I was more interested in the characters than I had at first realized, so I bought the second book in the series.
It is the world surrounding the war that I find most interesting. The character of Michael O'Neal is interesting, the characters around him seem both realistic and worth meeting and the situation in which they find themselves, trying to save their lives in the face of an alien invasion and, at the same time, having to deal with their "allies" who cannot be trusted, to be a sufficient mix of reasonable and heroic to make the books worth reading for me. As with all of the John Ringo books I have read this one contains just the right amount of desperation and hope to leave me with a positive feeling in spite of the violence surrounding the main characters.
There are a lot of side characters whose stories do not seem to have a major effect on the main plot but I that this enriches the story. Most people's lives in time of crisis and war are important only to them and to those around them and do not affect the overall outcome. Thus, for me, the fact that there are secondary interesting characters who do not add to the main plot in a major way makes the book more realistic, not less interesting and their stories add flavor to the book and keeps it from being all war.
The narration is very good and the story flows well. I may read the whole series.
John Dortmunder scores his biggest prize accidentally. If it were anyone else they would be set for at least a nice vacation, but not Dortmunder.
The curse strikes again and John not only cannot get rid of the item but he has become a huge target for both the police and the underworld. He biggest goal is to somehow survive his "good luck" and live to see another day. What a hoot!
Donald Westlake has created a wonderful character with John Dortmunder and I have found every one of the first 5 novels well worth the time and money. I have not been disappointed with the characters, the stories or the wonderful finishes Mr Westlake has come up with. After a little rest (and some more serious books), it will be on to #6.
I bought this book expecting an interesting story set against the Middle East during The Crusades. The story sounded interesting - King Solomon's gollums, some secret and a mythical creature. So much for expectations.
The story is very dark and I had a hard time getting through it. It is almost 8 hours and should have moved quickly, but it seemed to take forever for me to finish. While the first part of the book kept my interest, about half way through the story took on clearly unreasonable situations and I found it hard to continue suspending my belief. How am I supposed to believe that people with knives in the back (or chest) are hardly inconvenienced during fights? How am I supposed to believe that people with arrows through them can keep fighting without much problem? And does it really take half a chapter for someone with their throat cut to lose consciousness?
Wayne Farrell's narration is quite good, but he could not save the story. This was, for me, a disappointment. Your mileage may vary ...
As with Inferno, Max Hastings has written a different kind of history of World War II, this one of the war in the Pacific theater. Like Inferno, this history provides an overview of the strategy and battles with details gleaned from personal letters, diary entries and recollections of those involved. All sides are represented with many such entries involving the Japanese, Chinese and Burmese as well as the western allies, and subjects not generally covered in histories of World War II are covered in some detail. Thus, in this book, we find details on what life was like for allied soldiers held as POWs by the Japanese, for western civilians held in internment camps, for the few Japanese held as POWs by the allies, random acts of compassion and violence committed by both sides, the thoughts of those involved in the fighting on places like Iwo Jima, Okinawa and other islands, the only detailed discussion of the Russian invasion of Manchuria right before the surrender of Japan that I have found in books like these, an extraordinary chapter on the decision to drop the atomic bomb as well as almost unknown incidents like those involving the Australian soldiers who mutinied and refused to be sent out on patrols and the Australian civilians who refused to load and unload war supplies on holidays and weekends during the last 2 years of the war when Australia was no longer under the threat of Japanese invasion.
The writing is engrossing and hard to put down, the stories of individuals both fascinating and horrifying and the truth of what life was like for those caught up in the war both clear and enlightening. While most histories of World War II have centered on the war in Europe this book makes clear that the war in the Pacific was just as difficult and painful for those involved, on both sides, as the one in Europe and Mr Hastings clearly shows how public opinion slowly turned from anger against the Japanese for their undeclared attack against Pearl Harbor into revulsion as stories of the treatment of allied POWs came out. Interestingly enough he also tells of the efforts by the allied governments to suppress the stories of Japanese brutality regarding the allied POWs.
As wonderful as this book is I only gave it 4 stars because Mr Hastings sometimes seems to let his personal opinions overwhelm the narrative. There are parts of the book where those opinions prevent him from presenting different, but valid, views on the subject. While there are many such examples I will mention only one.
Mr Hastings does not Douglas McArthur and that dislike seems lot color all of his writings concerning the general. Almost nothing McArthur did or planned (excepting his stewardship of Japan after the war) seems acceptable to Mr Hastings. He judges McArthur’s invasion of the Philippines as unnecessary for the defeat of Japan and spends considerable time saying so. Even if one accepts his premise that the invasion was militarily unnecessary Mr Hastings does not even consider that there might be other valid reasons for the invasion. The Philippines was a US dependency and the people were largely supportive of the US governance and the planned granting of independence. Almost alone among the peoples of Japanese occupied Asia the Philippine people looked forward to a US invasion and would probably have considered the US bypassing them as a slap on the face. In addition there was the cause of the American and Philippine POWs held by the Japanese and the attempt to save their lives. As Mr Hastings makes very clear, Japanese surrender did not mean the safety of US POWs and many were killed by their captors after Japan surrendered. In addition Mr Hastings blames the terrible loss of life of the Philippine civilians, killed by the Japanese during the invasion, as being as much due to the invasion as to the Japanese - an assumption I found both unreasonable and prejudicial.
Mr’s Cameron’s narration is very good and helps keep the narrative foremost in view. However he has the very annoying habit of mispronouncing the word “corpsman”. In American English this is pronounced KOR-MAN but Mr Cameron constantly pronounces it KORS-MAN. It is extraordinarily annoying and ruined parts of the narration for me. I have to assume that he does not know the proper pronunciation since the word is American and refers to the medical enlisted men in the US Marines. Regardless, it is annoying.
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