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Churchill and Orwell

The Fight for Freedom
Narrated by: James Lurie
Length: 9 hrs and 55 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (629 ratings)
Regular price: $28.00
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Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling author Thomas E. Ricks, a dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, whose farsighted vision and inspired action preserved democracy from the threats of authoritarianism, from the left and right alike.

Both George Orwell and Winston Churchill came close to death in the mid-1930s - Orwell shot in the neck in a trench line in the Spanish Civil War and Churchill struck by a car in New York City. If they'd died then, history would scarcely remember them. At the time Churchill was a politician on the outs, his loyalty to his class and party suspect. Orwell was a mildly successful novelist, to put it generously. No one would have predicted that by the end of the 20th century, they would be considered two of the most important people in British history for having the vision and courage to campaign tirelessly, in words and in deeds, against the totalitarian threat from both the left and the right. In a crucial moment, they responded first by seeking the facts of the matter, seeing through the lies and obfuscations, and then they acted on their beliefs. Together, to an extent not sufficiently appreciated, they kept the West's compass set toward freedom as its due north.

It's not easy to recall now how lonely a position each man once occupied. By the late 1930s, democracy was discredited in many circles, and authoritarian rulers were everywhere in the ascent. There were some who decried the scourge of communism but saw in Hitler and Mussolini "men we could do business with", if not in fact saviors. And there were others who saw the Nazi and fascist threat as malign but tended to view communism as the path to salvation. Churchill and Orwell, on the other hand, had the foresight to see clearly that the issue was human freedom - that whatever its coloration, a government that denied its people basic freedoms was a totalitarian menace and had to be resisted.

In the end Churchill and Orwell proved their age's necessary men. The glorious climax of Churchill and Orwell is the work they both did in the decade of the 1940s to triumph over freedom's enemies. And though Churchill played the larger role in the defeat of Hitler and the Axis, Orwell's reckoning with the menace of authoritarian rule in Animal Farm and 1984 would define the stakes of the Cold War for its 50-year course and continues to give inspiration to fighters for freedom to this day. Taken together, in Thomas E. Ricks' masterful hands, their lives are a beautiful testament to the power of moral conviction and to the courage it can take to stay true to it through thick and thin.

©2017 Thomas E. Ricks (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 06-11-17

Elegantly Written

I have read so many books by or about Churchill that a new book must have a new approach or hook or else I will not be bothered to read it. This one did.

Both George Orwell and Winston S. Churchill came close to death. Both men faced an existential crisis to their way of life with moral courage. They also demonstrated that an individual can make a difference. These two men were different in many ways. They came from different social classes but each could think and write clearly. Both men were committed to critical thought and neither followed the crowd.

Both men were in disgrace in the 1930s. Churchill was a political pariah, alienated from the Conservative Party by his opposition to the appeasement of Hitler. Orwell wrote “Homage to Catalone” in 1938. It was a coruscating indictment of both left and right during the Spanish Civil War. He was denounced by many and his publisher refused to continue to publish the book. After the war broke out in 1939, Churchill and Orwell found common cause.

Both men thought honesty and language mattered at every level. Ricks tells of Churchill, over burdened with the war of survival, paused to coach subordinates on writing. He issued a directive to brevity, ordering his staff to write in short crisp paragraphs and to avoid meaningless phrases. In Orwell’s famous six elementary rules on writing, he includes “never us a long word where a short one will do”.

The book is well written and meticulously researched. Ricks made some comparisons with current politicians. I found the stories about the men most interesting.

The book is ten hours long. James Lurie does a great job narrating the book. Lurie is an actor, voice over artist and audiobook narrator.

10 of 10 people found this review helpful

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  • J.B.
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL, United States
  • 06-10-17

Disparate

Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom, by Thomas E. Ricks, and narrated By James Lurie. journalist and author who specializes in the military and national security issues. I am always thrilled when he is interviewed on TV as his insights are reveling; he defines the issue, provides the necessary facts and draws conclusions that are not obvious but seeded in the circumstance and fully analyzes the abnormality or impairment being discussed. I have previously read his works, Fiasco, history of the Iraq War from the planning phase to combat operations and The Gamble, the succeeding years in Iraq, to 2008. Insightful and a must read to understand the quagmire of the present war taking place in Iraq and beyond or the damage done to this earth in establishing the nations as was done at the end of World War I.

Okay, so one gets it; I praise Mr. Ricks’ works. Not here, though in Churchill and Orwell. We are talking about Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister in WW II and George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984. One wants to believe that Mr. Ricks was planning two long essays on each, had a book obligation and smashed the two together to meet his obligation. Why not, as both men were British – albeit of almost diametrically opposed attitudes.

The book’s purpose, per the publisher, is a work on how those men preserved democracy from the threats of authoritarianism. It has nothing to do with explaining despotism. It is simply a short biography of each man. In that sense, it is very well done and easy to listen too. Yet, unlike, the above-named works of Ricks, does not provide the same insight into political history and trends. It is a non-sequitur, short biography of each man. As that it is fairly good.

The book, tells each man’s history, from birth through their appearance in the mid-1930s and who each became factors in European society. Each proved to be courageous as each demonstrated by going to war, in Churchill’s situation WWI, and Orwell in the Spanish Civil War. Each had reverence for the lower social societies . . . and more about thier lives.

As a comparative study the matching of the two individuals is unsuccessful. Separate from the matching of the two for a comparative study, which fails, it is an interesting history of each man and their philosophy of dictatorship and how it must be resisted.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

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It rings a bell for the issues government faces today

All around great book. Research and writing are complete and flawless. Narrator does a splendid job and conveys supporting emotional content.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Not that remarkable

If you have read other books that recount this time period, you will find the material very unremarkable, and a bit stail. My advice; skip the last 3 chapters.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Aneil
  • Durham, NC USA
  • 10-02-17

Tour de Force of 2 of the 20th Century's Greatest

As a huge fan of Orwell, I greatly enjoyed learning more about the foundations of this towering literary figure, especially his time in the Spanish Civil War. Ricks's profile, of Churchill, and his discussion of how both Orwell and Churchill came to similar conclusions about totalitarianism, both the left-wing and right-wing forms, despite their very different backgrounds, was masterful.

I only wish Ricks had applied his significant analytical powers to applying the lessons provided by Churchill and Orwell to our present circumstances more fully in his last chapter, even thought was not the purpose of this very important book. What these two have to each us is even more relevant and timely for today than it was for their contemporaries.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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So much to be gleaned from these men...

Timeless and invaluable lessons abound in the legacies of Orwell and Churchill. A wonderful book.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Extraordinary !

Having listened to hundreds of audio books over the last 12 years, I can easily rate this title near the top of my list of favorites. It is a wonderful, revealing and insightful historical narrative about two of the giants of thef 20th century. In fascinating detail it highlights how their lives paralleled each other during the tumultuous 30s and 40s and how the legacy of their achievements effects us today. James Lurie’s superb narration makes this a very memorable audio experience.

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A Timely Reminder of the Stakes

A cogent reminder of how and why these two Giants of the 20th century more relevant than ever.

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Random find

I think this was suggested based on my previous ‘reads’. However it’s not something I would normally pick up. Really glad I did though. Very interesting comparison of two gents that I had never before considered in the same context. It’s also instructive of ensuring that we stay grounded in facts in modern day, as well as how to respond to those facts.

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An Effective Comparative History Lesson

This work is a well-paced and fair handling of two major figures often mischaracterized in modern accounts for petty political aims. It is a humane and fair attempt to get "at the truth of the matter" regarding their origins, shared existence, and their navigation of a time when the present was cataclysmic and the future uncertain.

The author weaves the central anti-authoritarianism thread shared by the two men into a rich lesson on the importance of the vital political center. However, this is not wielded as a blunt instrument supporting an agenda denouncing the rise of extremism in our world of 2019. How both men arrived at their conclusions as to the nature of liberty and the methods they employed to advance that privilege gives the reader authentic view outside the myopic political bubbles that society so often entrenches itself. It conveys the necessary context of their world and experience onto the reader.

I found this work to be an entertaining, often delightfully bold, and occasionally adversarial in the assumed defense of the two subjects who appear regularly in our zeitgeist. By no means are the sharper edges of their lives and strange idiosyncrasies spared. Both men are described, scarred and carrying their victories as a burden, fairly and without genuflection.

Ultimately, it provides a thoroughly rich personal introduction of the two men that would inspire readers to confidently navigate Churchill and Orwell's literary achievements with greater perspective.

Bravo!