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Churchill | [Roy Jenkins]

Churchill

In this magisterial book, Roy Jenkins' unparalleled command of the political history of Britain and his own high-level government experience combine in a narrative account of Churchill's astounding career that is unmatched in its shrewd insights, its unforgettable anecdotes, the clarity of its overarching themes, and the author's nuanced appreciation of his extraordinary subject.
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Publisher's Summary

Winston Churchill is an icon of modern history, but even though he was at the forefront of the political scene for almost 60 years, he might be remembered only as a minor player in the drama of British government had it not been for World War II. In this magisterial book, Roy Jenkins' unparalleled command of the political history of Britain and his own high-level government experience combine in a narrative account of Churchill's astounding career that is unmatched in its shrewd insights, its unforgettable anecdotes, the clarity of its overarching themes, and the author's nuanced appreciation of his extraordinary subject.

From a very young age, Churchill believed he was destined to play a great role in the life of his nation, and he determined to prepare himself. Jenkins shows in fascinating detail how Churchill educated himself for greatness, how he worked out his livelihood (writing) as well as his professional life (politics), how he situated himself at every major site or moment in British imperial and governmental life. His parliamentary career was like no other - with its changes of allegiance (from the Conservative to the Liberal and back to the Conservative Party), its troughs and humiliations, its triumphs and peaks - and for decades, especially the crisis years of the late 1930s and the terrifying 1940s, when at last it was clear how vital Churchill was to the very survival of Britain. He evaluates Churchill's other accomplishments, his writings, with equal authority.

Exceptional in its breadth of knowledge and distinguished by its stylish wit and penetrating intelligence, this is one of the finest political biographies of our time.

©2001 Roy Jenkins; (P)2002 Blackstone Audiobooks

What the Critics Say

"A first-class, well-sustained work of history and a masterpiece of biography." (The Sunday Telegraph)
"This is far and away Churchill's best one-volume biography." (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (497 )
5 star
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4.2 (176 )
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4.1 (172 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Karen Colerain, NC, USA 12-15-02
    Karen Colerain, NC, USA 12-15-02
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Best of British Political Soap Opera"

    This is a LONG book (and thus great value for money). You get not only the portrait of Churchill as a confident, sometimes bungling, always charistmatic figure, but also Jenkins's insights into the British political scene. For instance, when he says that chancellors of the exchequer often expect to become prime minister, he making a wry comment on his own lost expectations. There is just enough analysis and just enough political gossip to make it all fun, and even to sustain suspense, given that we know how it is all going to turn out. The reader is great. He "does" Churchill just well enough to be believable, but not with such emphasis as to be annoying. I have listened to all 25 disks and when my Altzheimers does its job I'll start all over again. The ONLY negative is the time it took to download!

    50 of 51 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Matthew Hammond, LA, USA 12-18-07
    Matthew Hammond, LA, USA 12-18-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very Detailed"

    This book is a filled with detail and very well described events. I had little knowledge of the life of Winston Churchill or the workings of the government he briefly led before reading this book. I can say that Jenkins left no stone unturned and has written a truly exceptional book.

    The narration is exceptional. No annoying flaws in the narrators reading style and maintains a steady pace.

    Only 4 stars due to the, in my opinion, overuse of insignificant names throughout the book which made some sections slightly difficult to follow.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KMH 04-24-04
    KMH 04-24-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Too much little stuff"

    This is a big book about a larger than life man. The book captures you early on and then somewhere around WW1 it let me go and it seemed like a chore to stick with the minutia especially between the wars. There seemed to be just too much detail in this book

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arthur Raleigh, NC, United States 10-29-06
    Arthur Raleigh, NC, United States 10-29-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "A Political Lifel"

    This is a gossipy, chatty, sometimes catty and not always favorable biography of Winston S. Churchill. Among other things, the author was a former MP and political insider holding various offices in government. His father, Arthur Jenkins was a parliamentary private secretary to Clement Attlee - the man who defeated Churchill immediately after WWII. Some of Churchill's most famous aphorisms were insulting to Clement Attlee (A modest man, who has much to be modest about) and one wonders how Roy Jenkins felt about that and if it had any influence on the book.

    Regardless, the book presumes the reader is more acquainted with English history and the English system of government than is likely for most Americans. The book focuses almost entirely on the inner political workings of government during Churchill's (and Jenkin's) time. It's also marred by diversions about various political figures who appear only briefly and don't have much to do with Churchill. The reader in England may be familiar with these characters and be interested in what happened to them but the American reader will not. It's almost more of a memoir than a biography because the author often inserts himself especially in the years in which he served in Parliament with Churchill.

    I would first recommend William Manchester for a more complete picture of Churchill, even though it's longer and, ironically, incomplete.

    I will say the voice characterizations by Robert Whitfield are excellent. By a change in accent or tone he is able to indicate a change in speaker leaving no doubt who is being quoted. This was extremely helpful. In particular, he does a decent imitation of Churchill himself. Even 40 years after his death, Churchill's words and voice are so familiar that it would be disconcerting to hear them spoken any other way.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Harris Syosset, NY, USA 01-28-03
    Harris Syosset, NY, USA 01-28-03
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Churchill for the Researchers"

    A hefty volume that just might be the way to go for someone doing their PHD thesis, it leaves a lot to be desired for a reader just trying to get a sense of the era. While it shows Churchill to be at times pragmatic, and at other times bumbling, it dwelt too much on each speech that he gave and each bill that he voted on. Even though Jenkins made a noble effort to "Americanize" his view of Parliament, the British election system, etc., the book is probably a bit to heavy for the American public unfamiliar with many of the British terms. In summary, a interesting work for research purposes but too heavy for everyday reading.

    22 of 24 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ddh 10-16-08
    Ddh 10-16-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent reading of an Excellent book"

    The reader, first of all, was wonderful. He provided realistic voices to the characters including the women (which many male readers get wrong).

    The book was fascinating. A wonderfully complete biography of Churchill. I gained a very good understanding of Churchill's strengths and weaknesses without distracting from his incredible role in history.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adam E Schussheim 04-02-08
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Very Good But Very British"

    A little too focused on details of British Parliament. This is not surprising since it is written by a Parliament Member but as a parochial American, some of the details were hard to follow. Overall, excellent though with great information and insight.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James Oakville, ON, Canada 05-02-07
    James Oakville, ON, Canada 05-02-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Lengthy, Well Written, Excellent Narration"

    If you only want to get an overview of the man's life, this book is not for you. This book is for the reader who knows the basics of Churchill's long career but who would like to learn more (many more) of the details in between.

    Churchill has his strengths and his flaws and this book isn't shy about exploring them in detail through each phase of his life. One quote that stands out in my mind is one where his young grandchild gets through the usual attendants and enters Churchill's study and asks "Grandpapa, is it true that you are the greatest man in the world?" To which his sweet grandfather answered: "Yes, now bugger off".

    I found the narration excellent. Not only did the narrator imitate a good Churchill but he switched to good Scots, Welsh, Afrikaner, American and working class English accents with ease.

    13 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 02-15-03
    Andy Westport, CT, United States 02-15-03 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "long, but worthwhile"

    This book was the cradle to grave story of Winston Churchill. The detailed account of his early years and rise to public office gives the listener a glimpse into one very interesting fellow. With the understanding of Churchill that I gained through listening, the actions in World WarI and World War II can be seen through another lens.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael Baltimore, MD, USA 06-10-04
    Michael Baltimore, MD, USA 06-10-04
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    "I have a great attention span; this one beat me"

    I really do not enjoy disparaging something that someone has obviously worked so hard to make, but I owe it to my fellow commuters. Do not get this book. This is the only audible book that I failed to finish. Almost every sentence follows the established format of a persuasive essay - which would be fine if a sentence could be a persuasive essay, but it clearly should not be.
    Each sentence begins with a lengthy introductory portion wherein the basic premise of the sentence is set forth and multiple facts are spilled out, then there is a maddeningly distracting section which attempts to concede to various opposing view points, followed, then, by several more sections that provide evidence to support the introductory portion, and this may, or may not, be followed by a concluding section which may, or may not, summarize the prior analysis - and all of this within the confines of a capital letter and a period.
    Now, if you enjoyed my last sentence, then, by all means, buy the book. And if you are a commuter, then it is accurate to say that there are literally miles of these sentences. If you are interested in Churchill, then stick with William Manchester.

    16 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-10 of 37 results PREVIOUS124NEXT
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  • Francis
    Liverpool, United Kingdom
    11/29/07
    Overall
    "A biography worthy of Churchill"

    If anyone is wondering whether it is worthwhile to spend a day and a half of your life listening to this biography, I would answer resoundingly yes. Whatever your own political affiliations, Churchill remains a fascinating character and his biography is inextricably woven in with the history of the last century. Roy Jenkins is an excellent biographer: this is neither hagiography nor hatchet job.The narrative is clear and constantly interesting , the judgements on people and events are shrewd and judicious. In particular, as might be expected Jenkins is a masterly guide to the workings of the British political system. Robert Whitfield's reading is most competent: his Churchill imitation is only passable, but proves to be valuable as not the least pleasure of the book is the generous quotation of Churchill's own words from letters and speeches. No contemporary politician comes anywhere near his mastery of English. A measure of this biography's success is that it does not seem long or overdetailed despite its length. There are many biographies of Churchill -some even longer, others more concise -but this account of Jenkins impresses me as a fair-minded guide and a work worthy of its subject.

    21 of 21 people found this review helpful
  • Francis
    Liverpool, United Kingdom
    11/29/07
    Overall
    "A biography worthy of Churchill"

    If anyone is wondering whether it is worthwhile to spend a day and a half of your life listening to this biography, I would answer resoundingly yes. Whatever your own political affiliations, Churchill remains a fascinating character and his biography is inextricably woven in with the history of the last century. Roy Jenkins is an excellent biographer: this is neither hagiography nor hatchet job.The narrative is clear and constantly interesting , the judgements on people and events are shrewd and judicious. In particular, as might be expected Jenkins is a masterly guide to the workings of the British political system. Robert Whitfield's reading is most competent: his Churchill imitation is only passable, but proves to be valuable as not the least pleasure of the book is the generous quotation of Churchill's own words from letters and speeches. No contemporary politician comes anywhere near his mastery of English. A measure of this biography's success is that it does not seem long or overdetailed despite its length. There are many biographies of Churchill -some even longer, others more concise -but this account of Jenkins impresses me as a fair-minded guide and a work worthy of its subject.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  • Tom
    West Wickham, United Kingdom
    12/19/09
    Overall
    "A long book but very enjoyable"

    I read this book when it was first published and very much enjoyed it and it translates very well to audiobook - narration is excellent, perfectly paced with characters brought vividly to life.

    Roy Jenkins presents a very believable and admiring portrait of Churchill - warts as well as genius. What amazed me when I first read the book, and now, is Churchill's indefatigable self confidence and energy. I am not sure that he was blessed with that much greater brains than the rest of us, but his courage, commitment, inexhaustible energy and vision is truly astonishing - it is hard not to compare to the current lot of politicians and find the latter severely wanting. And Roy Jenkins' prose is direct and readable.

    I know it's 37 hours long but the journey is well worth the time!

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  • Ian
    Nuneaton, United Kingdom
    5/23/10
    Overall
    "Excellent"

    A fine and measured reading of Jenkins' inpeccable prose. The book may be too long for many, but it makes an excellent summary of British and European history in the first half of the 20th century through the career of Churchill.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • Ainslie
    BertrangeLuxembourg
    3/22/06
    Overall
    "Iain Macleod"

    As a single book description of Churchill's life, this is an excellent biography. As a politician himself, Roy Jenkins analysis of Churchill is inciteful and always interesting.

    This is a biography that will allow you to better understand one of the 20th Century's most important leaders.

    23 of 25 people found this review helpful
  • Nils
    Olstykke, Denmark
    4/13/13
    Overall
    "A rivetingly observant and well-written biography"

    I have never read/listened to a biography that was so immensely filled with well-written, well-researched and entertaining information as this one.



    Be prepared to spend the time on this book - it is a very long biography of a man with a very long and extremely full life that changed the course of history for so many of us.



    Jenkins' style of writing is a joy to listen to and expertly read by Robert Whitfield (who is unknown to me) - brimming with helpful and elegant interpretation and ever adding snippets of information setting the tone or background of a particular event, the part played by a side character, or simply filling in to help history-weak readers like myself.



    Jenkins is rather ((too?) discrete about the darker moments in Churchill's life, but they are there, as they should be in a proper biography.



    Little, often humourous, comments are interspersed thorughout the book - much appreciated.



    As I have not read other biographies on Churchill, I am unable to make comparisons. Suffice it to say that I have enjoyed "meeting" Sir Winston in this way (I have been through it two - and partly three - times so far) and can wholeheartedly recommend it. Interested in Churchill? - read it! Interested in history? - read it! Just wanting to be entertained while being inspired by a great statesman? Enjoy!

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  • Peter
    wellingborough, northants, United Kingdom
    7/15/10
    Overall
    "A fine Potrait of a Great Man"

    To do justice to the life of one of the Greatest Ever Politicians of our times is a difficult feet but Roy Jenkins in the main achieves this, I am certain that some will feel that perhaps too much attention is given to the art of politics but given the Authors background it is unsurprising. All in all it is an excellent Potrait of a Great Man and the Narrator does a fine job. A bargain and well worth the time.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Paul
    Heckington, United Kingdom
    4/26/09
    Overall
    "Really excellent!"

    Really interesting. The besy audio book I have bought and worth every penny. Robert Whitfield is a very easy voice to listen to and Roy Jenkins has covered all the angles. I cannot rate it highly enough.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  • Dr.
    Bramley, United Kingdom
    4/7/13
    Overall
    "A thorough portrait of a national hero"

    I was a young schoolboy during Churchill's last administration. His speeches and deeds resonated through my childhood, and the popular culture rang with praise and admiration for him. As I grew up I began to realise that he had not always been the figure of national reverence that he became in later life, but up until his death he remained a largely unquestioned icon of his times.



    Roy Jenkins, although a political opponent, and coming from a later generation, nevertheless gives a well-researched and sympathetic account of his life and career. There is sometimes, for me at any rate, a little too much information on political and social facts of the time, but to those who are younger and less well acquainted with the politics and society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries I'm sure this background would be helpful.



    Robert Whitfield's reading, for me, is nigh on perfect. His accent and tone is perhaps to a modern listener a little antique, but it blends well in my ear with the era and habits of the people who are being described. It is always difficult to strike a balance between doing an imitation of Churchill's unique delivery and diction, which can all too easily become a sort of comic parody, and simply reading his words in a normal speaking voice. I think here the balance has been well struck. It is clear when Churchill is being quoted, the words are spoken in a voice approaching his accent and intonation, but the style does not approach mimicry.



    All in all, this is an informative, complete, and entertaining account of a long and eventful life of a man who was arguably the greatest British statesman of his generation, if not his century. A life, moreover, which affected British, European and World history to the profound benefit of succeeding generations.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Mr
    United Kingdom
    4/9/13
    Overall
    "The definitive Churchill biography?"

    Roy Jenkins has produced what could well be the definitive biography of Winston Churchill. Others may produce more detailed works on particular aspects of his career, notably the period of his premiership during the Second World War, but this is probably the best covering his whole life.



    Jenkins uses his long experience as a politician who held some of the highest offices of state, though he never made it to Number 10, to analyse various aspects of Churchill's political career. Churchill was of course far more than a politician, having also written a number of highly praised histories and biographies, and here too Jenkins has no little experience to add.



    This is no hagiography - Churchill was a great, but of course not a perfect, man and Jenkins does not shy away from his faults. But it is also not a revisionist history - the author greatly admires his subject and this is clear throughout the book. I found it to be a very fair account.



    The narrator does an excellent job with this lengthy work and I happily listened to the complete audiobook, enjoying the whole experience. Five stars from me for this magisterial work on one of the greatest men to have ever lived.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
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