©1999 John Lukacs; (P)1999 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"With a delightful British accent and a professional quality voice, Howard...communicates the tension during those fateful days." (AudioFile)
"[This book] is lucid and splendidly readable, and furthermore, commands a host of dramatic characters....[It] has the power and sweep of Shakespeare's chronicle plays." (Boston Globe)
"Eminent historian Lukacs delivers the crown jewel to his long and distinguished career with this account....It is the work of a man who lives and breathes history, whose knowledge is limitless and tuned to a pitch that rings true." (Publishers Weekly)
Was already taken as a title by Churchill himself, but that perfectly incapsulates what is written about here. I've read quite a bit about this period and I find Lukacs account to be compelling, even handed and judicious. It would be easy to lambaste Chamberlain and Halifax for the appeasement policies of the late 1930s though by this time the scales had fallen from Chamberlain's eyes. For Halifax it was more difficult. He belonged as William Manchester described it "England's decent, civilized establishment" and with the collapse of France he saw the prudent course to be a negotiated peace provided it would not be too Draconian. He despaired of Churchill's Romantic die in the last ditch vision, but it was that vision that was required and triumphed. This is the record of five days during which the fate of the West was poised on a razor's edge and it resisted the elemental forces that had brought it to this pass by obeying the single minded determination of a man who belonged to the past and the future but flourished in his unlikely present.
This is an outstanding listen for history buffs. Bone up a bit before you listen, though. I found myself pausing to look things up to help with understanding. But this is a fascinating look into one of the mose interesting periods of time. After you finish, get a book of Churchill's speeces and read those from May and June 1940. Good stuff!
The publisher describes this work as a "magisterial" account of "decisive" and "historical" debates within Churchill's War Cabinet in London in May 1940. I think a better description would have been "The Peculiar Case of Edward Halifax." According to the text, Halifax, then the Foreign Secretary, suggested an approach to Mussolini to sound out the possibility of his mediating a European settlement with Hitler that would preserve British independence. Churchill rightly rejected the idea as a slippery slope that could sap morale and put England in position of negotiating with the Nazis from weakness--a terrible place to be when England still had the option of fighting it out. There was no real debate in the Cabinet. This was more a case of Churchill remaining courteous to Halifax by letting him speak his mind in Cabinet meetings, given Churchill's political imperative of keeping the Government united at the most perilous time in British history.
Still, the book does a good job of putting the terrible events of May 1940 in context: the uncertain fate of the British Army trapped at Dunkirk, the impending collapse of France, the well-founded fear of a Nazi invasion of England. With the benefit of hindsight, these are simply interesting facts. For those living through them who appreciated the dire situation, they knew their whole way of life and history were hanging by a thread.
This book has many interesting facts and tons of information that I wanted to listen too - however the writing style was not fluid and I found this listen very difficult to follow. The narration was also dull and did not seem to fit the tone of the book.
A superb work of histroy very well presented.
"Not as I expected, in some ways better."
Do try this history of how Britain came to stand alone. The politics I expected, but of equal interest - and for me a little unexpected - was the recounting of the feelings and reactions of the Britsh people. The two threads combine to make compelling listening. Oh, and as well as not being able to win without the Americans, it was good to hear that without Britain the war would have been lost... and that from an American. Buy it.
"A seminal period in UK history"
This book manages to get over the difficulties that Churchill faced when taking over the reigns of government in 1940, for me as someone far removed from this period in our history it can be a little confusing to follow all of the details and fully grasp then, I suspect that another listening would help.
It is a gripping tale, and one that we should all be thankful ended in the right way.
I'm really not sure that I would have read this as a book. In the audio format it is just superb. I am not a historian but this work is of value to anyone with an interest in current affairs.
Well read, well written and an inspiring theme.
"Very enjoyable and informative"
A fascinating record of five vital days in World War II and the events leading up to them. Excellently narrated by Geoffrey Howard.
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