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Finest Years | [Max Hastings]

Finest Years

Preeminent military historian Max Hastings presents Winston Churchill as he has never been seen before. Winston Churchill was the greatest war leader Britain ever had. In 1940, the nation rallied behind him in an extraordinary fashion. But thereafter, argues Max Hastings, there was a deep divide between what Churchill wanted from the British people and their army, and what they were capable of delivering.
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Publisher's Summary

Preeminent military historian Max Hastings presents Winston Churchill as he has never been seen before. Winston Churchill was the greatest war leader Britain ever had. In 1940, the nation rallied behind him in an extraordinary fashion. But thereafter, argues Max Hastings, there was a deep divide between what Churchill wanted from the British people and their army, and what they were capable of delivering.

Himself a hero, he expected others to show themselves heroes also, and was often disappointed. It is little understood how low his popularity fell in 1942, amid an unbroken succession of battlefield defeats. Some of his closest colleagues joined a clamour for him to abandon his role directing the war machine.

Hastings paints a wonderfully vivid image of the Prime Minister in triumph and tragedy. He describes the ‘second Dunkirk’, in 1940, when Churchill’s impulsiveness threatened to lose Britain almost as many troops in north-west France as had been saved from the beaches; his wooing of the Americans, and struggles with the Russians. British wartime unity was increasingly tarnished by workers’ unrest, with many strikes in mines and key industries.

By looking at Churchill from the outside in, through the eyes of British soldiers, civilians and newspapers - and also those of Russians and Americans - Hastings provides new perspectives on the greatest Englishman. He condemns as folly Churchill’s attempt to promote mass uprisings in occupied Europe, and details ‘Unthinkable’ - his amazing 1945 plan for an Allied offensive against the Russians to liberate Poland. Here is an intimate and affectionate portrait of Churchill as Britain’s saviour, but also an unsparing examination of the wartime nation which he led and the performance of its armed forces.

Max Hastings studied at Charterhouse and Oxford and became a foreign correspondent, reporting from more than 60 countries and 11 wars for BBC TV and the London Evening Standard. He has won many awards for his journalism. Among his best-selling books, Bomber Command won the Somerset Maugham Prize, and both Overlord and Battle for the Falklands won the Yorkshire Post Book of the Year Prize. After 10 years as editor and then editor-in-chief of the Daily Telegraph, he became editor of the Evening Standard, in 1996. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, he was knighted in 2002.

©2009 Max Hastings (P)2014 Audible Studios

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    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 09-11-14
    Jean Santa Cruz, CA, United States 09-11-14 Member Since 2015

    I am an avid eclectic reader.

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    "Full of perceptive insight"

    Max Hasting well known British historian attempt to take a realistic view of Winston Spencer Churchill. The author has written a subtly revisionist account of Winston Churchill during the war. Hasting has taken a different method of looking at Churchill that is by looking at him through the eyes of others at the time. Hasting used diaries, letters and stories then he ties it together with a bits and parts of Winston Churchill speeches. That Hasting is never seduced by Churchill’s effortless apothegms and anecdotes is an indication that this is a fine book rather than simply an addition to the hagiography.

    During the period in which Britain fought almost alone—the Dominions being the exceptions—Churchill parsed what amounted to a series of defeats and evacuation as noble encounters. Finally the Russians entered the war and had to deal with 200 axis’s divisions, the British struggled to handle a couple of Afrika corps. I found one comment by Hasting that WSC was so frustrated with the British Army; all they could do is lose battles. Churchill praised the Air Corp and the Navy. Hastings said WSC was intensely frustrated by the caution and lack of imagination of his Army Generals—notably those who won the Victoria Cross in the First World War They were fighting the prior stationary war instead of adjusting to the fast moving current war.

    The author wrote a damning indictment of Britain’s culture of war-making, making do with shoddy equipment, corruptions in procurement, appointments and promotions based on mere social statues not merit. These are the same complaints that Lord Wellington made during the Napoleonic war. Napoleon was the first to promote officers on merit. Napoleon once said “ give me my officers and the English soldiers and I could rule the world”. Hasting discussed the Russian Spies in England that kept Stalin abreast of every major development. The author also discussed the Union strikes during the War slowing down vital war materials.

    This book may have some valuable lessons not just about leadership but about the relationship between soldiers and civil society. The book is well balanced revealing Churchill’s failings as well as his strengths. Despite his failings he is revealed as one of the greatest wartime leaders. If you are a history buff, a Churchill fan or interested in WWII you will find this an excellent book. Barnaby Edwards did a good job narrating the book.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KRMurr 06-01-15
    KRMurr 06-01-15 Member Since 2012

    A busy lifelong reader who has become a full on audiobook junky - particularly history & fiction.

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    "Max Hastings "Finest Years" | Winston Churchill"

    Superb honest account of an extraordinary man who was not a perfect warlord, strategist or politician...but he was a man and a steadfast rock when the world needed one more than ever before or since.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    TanstaaflRik 05-13-15 Member Since 2014
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    "I loved it..."

    I'm a Churchill fan, and this is one of the best. The narration is excellent. Very welll done. I bought NEMESIS based on having enjoyed this so much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Neil Castle Hill, Australia 04-06-15
    Neil Castle Hill, Australia 04-06-15 Member Since 2013
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    "WW iI A informative perspective"

    Extremely interesting after having listened to Winston Churchill's books on WW II.
    Easy to listen to. Makes me want to read more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • J
    11/13/14
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    "Superbly written and delivered"
    If you could sum up Finest Years in three words, what would they be?

    Thorough, compelling, entertaining


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Churchill, with his big heart and indefatigable energy, dominates this book. A flawed leader, maybe, but a giant among his peers. He never went to University and took three attempts to pass the Sandhurst entrance examination and yet he put his well educated colleagues in the shade when it came to vision and strategy. What if Churchill had died during his reckless Boer War escapades or his experimental flights in pre WW1 planes? This book reminds us of the debt we owe to WSC.


    Have you listened to any of Barnaby Edwards’s other performances? How does this one compare?

    This is my first Barnaby Edwards performance and the narration is absolutely superb. His impersonations of the various characters are perfect and, for a moment, you think you are listening to Churchill himself.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    In a world gone mad with hatred, oppression and disregard for human life, Churchill stood out as a man of compassion. His heart for his enemies was remarkable.


    Any additional comments?

    This book is superbly written and expertly narrated. Production of the narration is as good as I've heard and Barnaby Edwards' theatrical ability makes the book a compelling read. Profoundly disappointed to have finished it - must look now for another Hastings / Edwards combination.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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