• Churchill and Orwell

  • The Fight for Freedom
  • By: Thomas E. Ricks
  • Narrated by: James Lurie
  • Length: 9 hrs and 55 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (804 ratings)

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Churchill and Orwell

By: Thomas E. Ricks
Narrated by: James Lurie
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Publisher's Summary

A New York Times best seller!

A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2017

A dual biography of Winston Churchill and George Orwell, who 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 both men 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

Critic Reviews

"Both subjects, he tells us in this page turner written with great brio, are 'people we still think about, people who are important not just to understanding their times but also to understanding our own.'...what comes across strongly in this highly enjoyable book is the fierce commitment of both Orwell and Churchill to critical thought." (The New York Times Book Review

“An elegantly written celebration of two men who faced an existential crisis to their way of life with moral courage - and demonstrated that an individual can make a difference.” (San Francisco Chronicle)  

“Readers of this book will realize, if they needed reminding, that the struggle to preserve and tell the truth is a very long game.” (Los Angeles Times

What listeners say about Churchill and Orwell

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  • Overall
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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.

17 people found this helpful

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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.

12 people found this 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.

3 people found this 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 people found this 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 people found this helpful

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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 person found this helpful

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Prescient

Thomas Ricks writes a book about two men of the 20th century who left a lasting contribution to Western society and Democracy. Both men were on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Yet both men recognized the extreme threat to freedom manifest in the totalitarian states of Germany and Italy on the right and the Soviet union left. In their time there were some other prominent people who had sympathies towards either side, including many of the British aristocracy and tory politicians well as powerful Americans such as Joseph Kennedy and Charles Lindbergh who were sympathetic to the Nazis. Sympathizers with the Soviet Union were not prominent but we're ruthless in their suppression of their enemies on the left. Both men remain influential long past their deaths.
Fast forward to today. Trump has been elected president and copies of George Orwell's 1984 are flying off the shelves. We have a president who lies constantly, has possibly colluded illegally with a hostile and undemocratic country and praises right wing murderous leaders in Philippines and in Egypt. He and his family are profiting off the presidency and he appoints members of his family with little to no knowledge or experience in government to high positions. At the same time the Republicans, both houses of Congress and their supporters look the other way. This is the time for leadership on the level of a Winston Churchill.

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10/10 would recommend

It was a great read that I had a hard time putting down. it's a little hard to get used to the way it switches back and forth between the two, but combining their stories in this way was fantastic after you get used to it. There are few books I read more than once, and this will be one of them.

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Unnecessary book

Self indulgent ramblings. This is a mildly biographic tome which mostly exists for the author to insert his own frankly generic and uninteresting politics while using the names of Churchill and Orwell. A waste of time. Better read Churchill or Orwell….

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Interesting Juxtaposition

At first glance, these two historical figures seemed quite different. I had already read a class o Churchill so I enjoyed the Orwell portions more. I definitely learned something but I still question why they were combined.