In political office at the end of WWI, Churchill foresaw the folly of Versailles and feared what a crippled Germany would do to the balance of power. In his years in the political wilderness, from 1931 to 1939, he alone of all British public men, continually raised his voice against Hitler and his appeasers. For over 50 years, he was constantly involved in, and usually at the center of, the most important events of his age. It was, however, his obduracy on matters of principle, his fortitude in the face of opposition, and his perseverance in standing alone that defined him.
©1983 William Manchester; (P)1990 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"Manchester is not only a master of detail but also of 'the big picture'....I daresay most Americans reading The Last Lion will relish it immensely." (National Review)
"[Manchester] can claim the considerable achievement of having assembled enough powerful evidence to support Isaiah Berlin's judgment of Churchill as the largest human being of our time." (Alistair Cooke)
This is one of the most fascinating books I have ever listened to or read. I happily lean towards escapist fiction and mysteries for my own reading and listening. I ordered this lo-o-ong biography on a whim when I saw it on sale, not expecting to listen to the end.
I was so wrong!
Before even getting to the birth of the Churchill, a great deal of time was spent on providing the background of the world and culture that formed him. Instead of being rather dull, the vivid and well-crafted descriptions of a society and government so different from the modern worldwere very interesting and necessary to understand who did what and why. Once Winston Churchill was introduced he became a real person to me rather than a rather stout man in old black and white pictures with a distinctive voice heard on scratchy recordings.
A great factor in the excellence of this book is the narrator. His diction is clear and easy-to-understand. His voice is pleasant and neutral on the factual portion and appropriately emotional for direct quotations of people. He even uses appropriate accents and voices for the varied characters. The Irish sound Irish. The French speaking in English sound French. He even manages to make the women sound clearly feminine. Beyond a great part of the fascination this book had for me was to hear the voice of Churchill recognizably interpreted from his childhood to middle age. All of this is an amazing performance by a fine actor.
One small area of irritation for me was that some quotes were given in a language foreign to me with no translation to English. Since my French, German and Latin skills are only up to recognizing the language but not the content, I was a little frustrated. I was so engaged I really wanted to know what had been said.
While a book of this length and on this topic is not for everyone, it is well worth the money, time and attention needed to hear it all the way through. I'm buying the second part of this biography next month
Reading, the arts and physical activity clarify, explain, illustrate, and interpret life’s goods and bads.
The Last Lion: It seems impossible that so many pieces of historical minutia, every little dribble of Winston Churchill’s life, from birth to 1932 can so deeply capture one's attention. Not a single iota of data – bored me? No, in fact I waded through this history with eager élan to hear more and more and more.
I had no idea Churchill’s life was such a struggle from parent neglect to constant antagonism from his House of Common party members, and of course, the opposition. I did not know he was such a war lord, and warrior in many theaters of conflict including the trenches in World War I. Nor did I have an adequate understanding how sharp a mind he had, and how caring he was for the downtrodden, as long as they respected their place alongside but not ahead of the British upper class. In fact, he had prejudices; although there was merely a distinction between peoples, but not a derogation of their humanity. Nevertheless, a prejudice. It was interesting to learn of his disgust of the Mahatma Gandhi – which was nothing compared to disgust at Bolshevism. Nor had I known how he financed his life, or how prolific of a writer he was – Darn! - His productivity makes me jealous. If one wants to learn how to be a real 19th century man; read this book. In short, as paraphrased towards the end of the book from his adversaries: Churchill does not debate, he orates, and he was always sure of his point of view and does not want to hear yours. That would be an indictment, but for the fact that Churchill was almost always correct.
I have recently read Churchill’s four book series on World War II. He is a very enjoyable writer, balanced but proud of who he was and what he accomplished. He was such a distinct human being it seems an easy task to now add another 137 hours (the length of this Manchester series on his life) to my reading/listening leisure time. Of course, reading a William Manchester biography – makes it easy. (Manchester died before completing the work and Paul Reid, finished the story – to equally great reviews.)
Finally, at least this first book was narrated by Frederick Davidson. He can read the ingredients on a can of beans and I would enjoy the delivered information. Now just a little more on Davidson. He always sounds too haughty, as though he is over affected with himself, for the first few pages. But no; he masters each topic and delivers with just the right effect, and in relatively good distinct voices – even though he never loses his haughtiness. So far Book One, a great read. I go on from here.
It’s a tedium but it’s a read well worth endeavoring.
This first volume of Manchester's admirable biography of Churchill provides fascinating detail on Churchill's first 58 years. If you're interested in the two world wars, and the greatest personality of his era, the man who did the most to save the world from Hitler, dig in, and be prepared to immerse yourself in a bygone world, brilliantly researched and richly painted. I am now on Volume III, and have enjoyed every hour spent listening to this extraordinary biography of an extraordinary man.
Listeners who dislike British accents may not appreciate Davidson's reading, but hang in there... the rich and engrossing story survives this dated recording.
This book is a fascinating and pleasurable listen. Christopher Hitchens calls it hagiography, but Manchester fairly acknowledges and discusses the various criticisms of Churchill, providing ample evidence for those who choose to disagree with his interpretation. There are certainly many things to dislike about this charismatic and dynamic figure—from his sense of entitlement to his rather distasteful bigotry—but The Last Lion does a marvelous job providing the reader with real insight into Churchill’s character and career. Frederick Davidson is a first-rate story-teller who does not overdo the Churchillian growl, pronounces German and French like a native, offers a wide-range of speaking voices (his young Churchill has just the right tinge of spoiled brat), and often had me laughing with his ability to express the author’s subtle irony. It is a great pity that Manchester never finished his grand designs for this biography.
I don't have the print edition, but Davidson's narration is wonderful-- totally enjoyable. It takes a couple chapters to appreciate all his 'impersonations' (e.g. female characters), but as the story progresses, you will appreciate the variety it brings.
Churchill is an amazing character-- I expected that, but the author does a wonderful of job of setting the environment, and providing just enough background and detail for other important characters (e.g. his mother, General Kitchener, et cetera).
His intonations / impersonations of characters, and of course, Churchill! Brilliant!
Yes, but it is too long for that. Plus, you don't want it to be over too soon.
It is a long listen. Be patient. Allow the author and narrator to draw you in.
I grabbed this audiobook as the second I had ever purchased on Audible on a whim. I had just finished watching a short documentary on Chruchill and wanted to learn a little bit more about him.
I grabbed this with one of my precious credits, figuring the extraordinary length could help me stretch that credit into a couple of months. I wasn't wrong.
However, don't let the length of this audiobook put you off, nor it subject matter, which in the wrong hand could be very dry. Manchester was the perfect man to write this biography (and at time I have a hard time calling it that.)
The reason I have a hard time calling this just a biography, is that Churchill the man was very much a product of the era he was born in and the era in which he was raised. In keeping with that, Manchester does an amazing job giving a history lesson on late Victorian England and the end of a century. It's as much a biography as a historical piece on a time period. The time period is as much a part of Churchill as Churchill is of it.
The author often leaves the subject of solely Churchill to explore the end of the Victorian era, and I often would not even notice. Manchester does an amazing job world building the past and placing Churchill within that world so that his story is so much richer.
The book follows Churchill from his early, and often troubled childhood to the end of an era and the begging of another. The rise of Nazism in post-World War I Europe.
The narration is superb. I only wish Davidson had done the other two in this trilogy. His accent is spot on and his Churchill is amazing. He ages the voice and you are able to hear the childlike innocence give way to the exuberance of a young military officer, to the strength and decisiveness of the Lord of the Admiralty.
One of my favorite things though was the different accents Davidson would affect. Especially the American. Interesting to hear an Englishman do an American accent and he did an excellent job.
If you have any interest in Churchill, the United Kingdom, World War I, or the Victorian Era and the beginning of the 20th century, I highly recommend this audiobook! You will definitely get the full value of your credit here!
It's difficult to convey how remarkable and influential Sir Winston Churchill was to the unfolding of the 20th century and, in fact, the fate of the world. It's also hard to explain how many truly bizarre turns he experienced throughout his life. His sad, strange upbringing coupled with a brilliance unmatched by any of his peers turns this early-years biography into an epic journey repleat with danger, disappointment, intrige, betrayal and triumph. Even his fiercest detractors admired him for his ample gifts.What a joy to have this first volume narrated by Frederick Davidson whose masterful Churchillian mimickery brings Victorian and Eduardian England to vivid life.There are times where the level of detail is such that the mind drifts away momentarily, but I think that's a function of Manchester's desire to get it all down while there were contemporaries who knew Churchill personally. Do yourself a favor and do not skip this volume to jump into the war years. This book is well worth the telling nd certainly worth a listen. Well done!
William Manchester is one of the great writers of our time and does the most extensive and readable biography of one of the most important individual of the 20th century.
This is definitely the in the top ten, maybe top five!
I enjoyed the flow of the book, as it waxed and wained from the cultural background of the Victorian Age to the details of the Churchill life.
Mr. Davidson's accents are quite good, and his timber remains fairly constant. His impersonation of Churchill, with his characteristic impediment, is very good.
The Man, The Myth, The Lion.
This a well-told biography for those who enjoy both storyline and historical fact. The pace is excellent; never did I feel bogged down. I use Audible as a hard educational entertainment tool in a low-light setting where physical reading in usually not practical. Finding entertaining history is sometimes difficult, as often it seems that textbooks are used. This author does well at both entertaining and informing at a pace and manner that doesn't sound like a graduate thesis.
You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” ― C.S. Lewis
Manchester brings dead facts to life in this biography. I feel like I was Churchill's invisabe friend. Its sad when you realize he has been dead for over 40 years. I miss him.
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