From London's inimitable mayor, Boris Johnson, the story of how Churchill's eccentric genius shaped not only his world but our own.
On the 50th anniversary of Churchill's death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the 20th century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portrays - with characteristic wit and passion - a man of contagious bravery, breathtaking eloquence, matchless strategizing, and deep humanity.
Fearless on the battlefield, Churchill had to be ordered by the king to stay out of action on D-Day; he pioneered aerial bombing and few could match his experience in organizing violence on a colossal scale, yet he hated war and scorned politicians who had not experienced its horrors. He was the most famous journalist of his time and perhaps the greatest orator of all time, despite a lisp and chronic depression he kept at bay by painting. His maneuvering positioned America for entry into World War II, even as it ushered in England's post-war decline. His open-mindedness made him a trailblazer in health care, education, and social welfare, though he remained incorrigibly politically incorrect. Most of all, he was a rebuttal to the idea that history is the story of vast and impersonal forces; he is proof that one person - intrepid, ingenious, determined - can make all the difference.
©2014 Boris Johnson (P)2014 Penguin Audio
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
This is a near-flawless book in measuring, in an erudite yet conversational manner, the near-majesty of a man who played a leading role (arguably the leading part) in maintaining the course of the free world and altering evil in the 20th Century. I was hesitant, but Mr. Johnson was able to draw me into his scholarly chat, unlike the historians who can cure any insomniac.
I highly recommend this audiobook.
I have read three biographies of Winston Churchill, one of them (by William Manchester) was itself three volumes, so I was not sure there was much about his life that was there to be learned and had some hesitation about buying this book. But Boris Johnson, who is himself an interesting politician with an even more interesting background, has written a book which is not a biography but a book about what made Churchill capable of being the one man who saved Western Civilization from the horrors of Nazi Germany. Thus Mr Johnson looks at the things that made Churchill who he was and how those characteristics contributed to the one person who was essential at a truly pivotal moment.
But Mr Johnson has created a canvas of more than just World War II and looked at Churchill’s contributions in The Boer War, World War I, World War II and the period leading up to the start of the European Union and shown how, at each point, Churchill’s contributions were essential to Britain’s victories or were ignored by those in power resulting in decisions that left Britain far worse off than it could have been. Indeed, while Churchill and World War II are at the core of how people remember Churchill Mr Johnson spends a great deal of time covering Churchill’s work on behalf of the working poor in the UK, his efforts to improve the living conditions of the poor throughout the British Empire, his efforts to secure a united and peaceful Europe after the war and much, more more. As part of this we are treated to many stories and anecdotes, both true and false, about Churchill’s life, we look at what helped make him the person he became and how the world we are living in today is largely his legacy. The book is amusing at times, sorrowful at others but always interesting.
The book is not an academic approach but is clearly a work of admiration for a truly great man and Mr Johnson makes the case that there was no one else who could have taken Churchill’s place, at least during World War II, and that had he not been who he was the world we live in today would be very, very different. The book is narrated by Simon Shepherd who does a very good job. Highly recommended for those with an interest in recent British history.
I am an avid eclectic reader.
I have been fascinated with Winston S. Churchill since I was a child. I try to read everything I can find about him. I was shocked to read in the book that the young people in Britain do not know who Churchill was. Johnson said he wanted to write about Churchill in such a manner as to bring Churchill to the attention of the young. Johnson thought the young might enjoy Churchill’s eccentricity.
This book is written by the current Mayor of London. The element of self-identification in Johnson’s writing is too obvious to ignore. This book is not just another biography. Rather, it is a series of polemics in which Johnson takes up the cudgels against Churchill’s critics.
One of the allegations against Churchill is that he wasn’t very nice to the little people in his life. That in private he was a mean-spirited and short tempered. Johnson relays a story to rebut this charge, told to him by Nicholas Soames, Churchill’s grandson. Johnson also discusses the accusation that Churchill was an unprincipled opportunist and he also addresses the charge of incompetent leadership during World War One that led to Gallipoli. Johnson also discusses Churchill’s literary output and explains how Churchill managed to fit all this into a busy life.
Johnson has created a canvas of more than just World War II but also looks at Churchill’s contributions in the Boer War, WWI and the period leading up to the start of the European Union and shown how, at each point, Churchill’s contributions were essential to Britain’s victories or were ignored by those in power resulting in decisions that left Britain far worse off than it could have been. Johnson also addresses Churchill’s work on behalf of the working poor in the UK, his efforts to improve the living and working conditions of the poor throughout the British Empire.
The book is written with wit, and reveals fascinating nuggets of information I found fascinating. I believe Johnson has been successful in his defense of Churchill as a uniquely great man. Simon Shepherd narrated the book.
A lot of history books just like to recite facts. But this book not only talks about what happened but also talks about why it happened. The why is the most important thing of any sort of history book.
Interesting content is entertainingly presented -- but a little too forgiving of Churchill's weaknesses. All is forgiven because the narrator is EXCELLENT.
Just one chapter is enough to make you realize you're listening to a majestic book! So there's no need for me to wait until finishing it to present this review. Extraordinary in everything!
I'm going to ignore the silly Audible questions and simply write a review. A politician - egocentric, reckless, outspoken, willing to jump from political party to party to advance his career, shocking, overconfident, self-promoting. These adjectives apply to a politician whose amazing career ended before most Audible readers were born (not just to any current political showman). Churchill was, in his time - his three quarters of a century long career - all of these, admired, reviled, written off as "done for" - and yet his accomplishment of guiding Great Britain and her empire through the horrific Battle of Britain and the Second World War is arguably the greatest achievement of any world leader any historian could name. Boris Johnson, rather a colourful character himself in modern British politics, takes on the challenge of attempting to define Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill's motives, guiding principles, successes, failures, positive attributes and reprehensible ones, in a way not accomplished by academics and historians. Though one can hear the voice of a Tory (and a proponent of Britain out of the EU) defending, explaining, justifying, and interpreting the scion of the House of Marlborough, Johnson does, imho, an excellent job of painting, in brave, bold, relishing brush strokes, a portrait of an amazing world figure, whose actions, inactions, decisions, prevarications, and word-smithing still impact us in this millennium.
I enjoyed all of it - the history, the description of Churchill's disasters (such as Gallipoli), his relations with his mother (the letters to her, as narrated by Simon Shepherd, have a fascinating persuasive whininess far more skillful than those of children of his own age), the slight detour to tell something of Clementine - all of these, coupled with the descriptions of Churchill's military, journalistic, and political career, make a portrait worthy of the best of Winston's paintings.
I have not heard other performances of Shepherd. He did, however, have a curiously inept way of pronouncing the first name of Chaim Weitzman.
Please - no movie. It would have to last longer than a performance of Gotterdamerung, in order to have the slightest hope of completeness, and at least five actors would have to portray the title character.
Separated by an ocean and an educational system which fails to teach modern world history, most Americans know pathetically little about Winston Churchill. Listening to this book would help to enlighten them a bit.
Say something about yourself!
Boris Johnson was exactly the right person to write this biography. It is informative, fast, fun, and thorough.
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