Spanning the years 1940 to 1965, Defender of the Realm, the third volume of William Manchester’s The Last Lion, picks up shortly after Winston Churchill became prime minister - when his tiny island nation stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany. The Churchill portrayed by Manchester and Reid is a man of indomitable courage, lightning-fast intellect, and an irresistible will to action.
This volume brilliantly recounts how Churchill organized his nation’s military response and defense, compelled President Roosevelt to support America’s beleaguered cousins, and personified the "never surrender" ethos that helped the Allies win the war, while at the same time adapting himself and his country to the inevitable shift of world power from the British Empire to the United States.
More than 20 years in the making, The Last Lion presents a revelatory and unparalleled portrait of this brilliant, flawed, and dynamic leader. This is popular history at its most stirring.
©2012 William Manchester (P)2012 Blackstone Audio, Inc
"Before his death in 2004, an ill Manchester asked former Cox newspapers journalist Reid to take his research notes and finish writing the final volume of his trilogy. The long-delayed majestic account of Winston Churchill’s last 25 years is worth the wait…. Manchester matches the outstanding quality of biographers such as Robert Caro and Edmund Morris, joining this elite bank of writers who devote their lives to one subject." (Publishers Weekly)
"General readers, as always, will be taken by [Manchester's] boundless abilities as a storyteller…. Essential for Manchester collectors, WWII buffs, and Churchill completists." (Kirkus Reviews)
"A big book but reads easily…. The finished book is a worthy conclusion to what must be considered one of the most thorough treatments of Churchill so far produced. An essential conclusion to Manchester's magnum opus." (Library Journal)
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.
To answer the review of someone who complained about the "American narrator": it surprised me too, until I realized that only the first part of the narration was read by Paul Reid, the co-author, he of the broad accent and mis-pronunciations. After he has described the character of Churchill, the competent (and British) Clive Chafer comes in and picks up the story. So just hang in there for the intro: it's a couple of hours long, but smooth sailing from then on. And after all, it was an American (in fact, two) who wrote this, so their voice should be in there somewhere!
The first two volumes of Manchester's biography of Churchill were some of the finest work by one of the best biographers who ever lived. So how can a relatively unknown writer hope to step in and fill Manchester's shoes?
Paul Reid, working from Manchester's research and notes, has done an astonishingly good job. Oh, there are a few missteps, but they're relatively trivial. Reid has not imitated Manchester, but rather has followed his approach to the story and the people involved and made the same kinds of choices Manchester made.
That means the biography is opinionated - and Reid is faithful to the worldview Manchester demonstrated in the first two volumes. This book is not afraid to pass judgment; but such judgments are always fully justified, in the text, by the sources and the outcomes.
Nor are Manchester and Reid so in love with Churchill that they overlook his flaws. He could be annoying and hard to work with, and those who worked with him were often frustrated with his scattershot approach to strategy and, well, everything else! But Manchester and Reid make it clear that much, perhaps most, of such criticism was unjustified or, in the end, trivial compared to Churchill's achievements.
Churchill's life deserved a great biography, and this is it.
The only flaw is that Clive Chafer artificially deepens his voice; but his natural voice isn't really that deep, so the effect is that he's working with only half his range. Sentences never sound quite finished, because he can't drop his pitch lower than it already is. The result is a constantly annoying sense of incompletion and tentativeness that does not suit the text at all. Maybe if the earlier volumes hadn't been so brilliantly read I wouldn't mind so much, but somebody needs to tell Chafer that he's a tenor, and he should read accordingly, so we get the benefit of his full vocal range.
This book ranks in the pantheon of biography along with Caro's treatment of Johnson and Moses, Cate on Nietzche, Sereny on Speer, Ward on Roosevelt, and Morris on Teddy Roosevelt, in other words, unmatched, without peer(and yes I've read all of the Gilbert Volumes, Jenkins, and Rose) amazing, and wonderful.
I've waited so long for this third volume,I doubted I would ever see it! I'm deeply grateful to Reid for taking the tools, and finishing the job.Â
Addictive, interesting, informative.
The whole work is excellent. Loved the switch from biographical part to general WWII history details.
A must have for history fans. It is quite a lengthy volume, but it is never dull and very well worth the time.
While the first two hours (introduction) is read by the author Paul Reid, the rest of the book is narrated by Clive Chafer a wonderful (English narrator).
Mr Reid is a worthy collaborator with WM for this perfect third volume. It is as great as it's preceding first two, worth waiting for. Too bad the other reviewer did not hang in there. In my opinion, Mr Reid had the right to read his own introduction.
Paul Reid has done and excellent job of finishing the work that Manchester had begun. Clive Chafer, too, is to be commended for making this third volume of the Churchill biography such an enjoyable listen.
Having just completed listening to the Audible.com version of this work, I can’t say enough good about either the quality of the book or the quality of the reader. Amazing to me that in the books 1200 plus pages, my interest in the narrative never flagged.Lion is more than a biography; it’s also a detailed history of the Second World War. While listening to Lion, I have been reading No Ordinary Time (Doris Kearns Goodwin, 1995) , which covers roughly the same time and the same characters. I’m enjoying Time, but it doesn’t compare favorably with Manchester-Reid’s book. Surely part of the charm has been the reading. When speaking Churchill’s words, Nelson Runger sounds like Churchill—all you’re missing is the static.
I can’t help speculating that the publishers made a conscious decision to include in the biography a great deal of peripheral information about the war and the times that Churchill lived in. The only instance I recall in which the authors refrained from inclusion was in following into the future the creation of the European Union—an objective that the great man had in view decades before its birth.
Finally, and perhaps because this period of time—the war years—were so dramatic, I thought this volume far surpassed in engaging my attention and capturing my imagination the earlier two Manchester volumes on Churchill’s life. Indeed, I next will listen to yet another Churchill biography in the hope that it can approach the quality of this one.
Very well done book about one of history's most interesting characters. The book is comprehensive, and delves into all the back stories during WSC's amazing life and times.
I enjoy listening to audible recordings while exercising and doing tasks around the house. My interest is mainly on historical nonfiction.
I liked the level of detail which is included in this volume. It contains many details which I have not encountered in either biographies of Churchill or accounts of the 2nd World War. An example is the descriptions of the ebbs and flows of support for Churchill during his time as prime minister during the war. Also, the information about the people who surrounded and assisted him during this period is very well done and informative.
All of the descriptions of his personal quirks, which were many and fascinating. Examples of this are his drinking and the schedule which he kept during the blitz. Also, the scenes which describe his single minded determination to defeat Germany once he was given responsibility for the war give real insight into his greatness.
This is must reading for anyone interested in Churchill and/or the 2nd World War.
At over 53 hours, this is a vast undertaking to listen to, let alone to have written. It starts just before Churchill takes power in May 1940 and ends with his death. The earlier volumes were written by William Manchester alone, whilst this is written almost entirely by Paul Reid, using the notes compiled by the dying Manchester.
With good narration, this is a competent telling of the great man's story, rich in detail. It is written with an American audience in mind, covering most key moments well. I say "most", as there are some that I feel lack some relevant detail. An example would be the machinations around Churchill's appointment in 1940, the rumblings of revolt amongst the establishment for peace in the months after his appointment, and Yalta, which is disposed of in jarringly short order.
The years after Churchill's loss of the 1945 election are covered in the last 8 or so hours of the book. This seems too short; he was, after all, Prime Minister for much of the 1950's, and lived for a further 10 years, if increasingly frail and inactive.
Another area which lacks critical analysis is the relationship between Churchill and the Americans, especially Roosevelt. It is clear that Roosevelt handles Churchill with calculation and barely concealed cynicism. Churchill, for his part, appears extraordinarily naive in comparison, although this may be simply a realistic acceptance of his subsidiary role. This critical nexus in his life demands critical analysis, especially when so much of the book describes these dealings in detail. Perhaps this is hard for an American to do, perhaps Paul Reid's relative inexperience meant he had his hands full just getting all of this down.
Nevertheless, these are minor criticisms given the scale of the work. It rams home what a wonderful, full life this great man led.
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