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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

Critic Reviews

"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 Ratings

Overall

  • 4.0 out of 5.0
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    26

Performance

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Story

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Sort by:
  • Overall
  • Iain
  • BertrangeLuxembourg
  • 03-22-05

A Brilliant Biography

A long, thorough and insightful biography of a fascinating and charismatic British politician, though when compared to the multiple tombs completed by Martin Gilbert and Randolf Churchill this is a brief summary of Churchill?s life.
Jenkins? insights are particularly fascinating for his own experience of later British Government.
I would agree with those, presumably American who find this dry. Much of his life is tied up in the UK parliamentary system, so unless you have a keen knowledge of the subject, the terminaology and characters can appear obscure.
As a Brit, I find this absolutely fascinating, and I believe that I will return to this book once every five years or so. A wonderful book!!!

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Flavius
  • Morro Bay, CA, United States
  • 07-03-09

An enjoying and thorough biography.

Recommended to anyone with an interest in one of the great figures of the 20th Century (the greatest, according to the author). This is a fairly thorough, but readable personal history. With the exception of some digressions into the day-to-day grind of parlimentary politics (the rules of which may be a source of confusion to some non-British readers, such as myself), the book remains thoroughly enjoyable until the end.

Roy Jenkins may be the ideal person to effectively conjure Churchill's legacy. Although their time in government overlapped but little (and at very different ends of their careers), Jenkins was (I believe) a Labour minister, with a very different set of political beliefs than had Churchill. Nevertheless, it is clear that Jenkins holds Churchill in the highest esteem. This high esteem, coupled with a tendency to deflate Churchill at various points, makes for a compelling picture of a brilliant, difficult and (at times) transformative individual.

The narration is exceptional.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Forrest
  • Littleton, CO, USA
  • 04-23-06

Too much paliament

Only recommended if you are real interested in just the parlimentary side of his life.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Well worth it, if you can last

This was my first audio book upon subscribing to Audible. There are other Churchillian biographies but none as comprehensive as this one. I feel like I lived with the guy for the past month! It's worth the listen, but some might rightfully subtitle it "Everything You Didn't Want to Know About Churchill's Life." All said, an heroic work on a complex character, among the most renown figures of the 20th century.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Marius
  • Cape Town, South Africa
  • 08-30-05

Intelligent and flowing

An intelligent flowing account of the life of the greatest politician of the 20th century. The late author, himself a British politician of note, narrates his work effectively, with colour and vigour. The narrative is a little spoilt by the electronic editing, which leaves only minimal gaps between sentences, resulting in an unnecessarily hurried atmosphere. I was a little bemused by the author describing Jan Smuts as having been ?house-trained? by Churchill ? clearly Jenkins did not have a clear understanding of the formidable intellect and will of Smuts. That aside, a really excellent work.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dan
  • Yreka, CA, USA
  • 05-25-03

Dry

I can only tell you my opinion of the first hour or so of this book because that's when I stopped listening. Dry.

6 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great Detail, but maybe too great

In search of a book about the life of Winston Churchill, this isn't missing very much if anything. However, this was much more detail than I needed. I can't imagine many people needing this much detail. I found myself often skipping through large sections of historical data that I didn't find very relevant.
I rated 3 stars though because I guess I would rather read a biography with too much detail than too little.

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  • garyyac
  • New Market, MD United States
  • 04-28-17

Long and detailed does not = good...

I am one third through this marathon and am not sure if I have the stamina to make it all the way. I'll modify this if I do. But I do think it merits mention to my fellow audible-ers that this is not what I would consider an optimal approach to a biography of Churchill.

My beef is that the author is so mired in political intrigue, meaningless (to me at least) detail and gossip about society in those days, and especially about peripheral characters who certainly don't matter to me, that the historical context gets mostly lost.

For example, Churchill's impact on history during World War I is barely mentioned in favor of faithful charting of the ups and downs of his political fortunes. Though the two are totally intertwined, do we have to almost completely ignore history in favor of gossip and intrigue? I actually felt obligated to watch a documentary about WWI to learn what was missing in this book. In a 34 (!) hour listen, this shouldn't be necessary.

If I make it to the end, I'll report back. But if I were you, I'd find another bio of WSC.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Marvellously well written and narrated biography

Roy Jenkins writes in a kind of droll, gracious, slightly archaic and drily amusing style that some will love (I do) but others might find verbose (which it certainly is). If edited by a modern American editor, it would be 30% shorter, with the same amount of "information", but a huge amount would have been lost. Tip, if you like Wodehouse, or even Hitchens, this is your biography of Churchill. If Tom Stoppard wrote history he might write something like this. The author, Jenkins, was a very senior Labour (then lib-dem) politician in the UK, not quite PM but very nearly, and his insights into that world, Cabinet and the House of Commons, and Churchill's role in those places (sometimes with parenthetical analogies to situations in later years) is fascinating for those who like that kind of thing. It is a book that works extremely well in audible form, in part because Jenkins is one of those old-school writers who seems to write for the speaking voice (I imagine him reading many of his sentences aloud with amusement over a glass of after-dinner port as he wrote it) and also because the narrator is extraordinarily good. His characterizations (Afrikaans accent for Botha, mid-Wales for Lloyd Geoge, and numerous others) really enliven the book and make it easier to follow, and make one realize how much would be lost on the page. His Churchill voice is pitch-perfect, not the usual caricature but enough to suggest the man exactly. His educated and ironic tone matches perfectly the dry wit of the writing

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  • SJ
  • 10-28-16

A Satisfying Audit of Churchils Life

This book does a good job of taking you thru the significant moments of the great mans life.
But not Churchills inner life. Perhaps that's because he lived so long and thru so much that it's impossible to cover it in depth. Next i will try a book dealing with a segment of his life.

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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Burbag
  • 11-26-14

The most perfect combination

Where does Churchill rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

The very best. A most informative biography

What was one of the most memorable moments of Churchill?

His fortitude and self belief in his wilderness years

Which character – as performed by Robert Whitfield – was your favourite?

Winston Churchill

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes. My own disbelief that for so much of my life I had simply taken Churchill for granted without comprehending his importance to my being

Any additional comments?

Beautifully written and incorporating a wonderful command of the English language

  • Overall
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  • Story
  • Moil5491
  • 07-07-14

Soldier,Journalist,Statesman,Writer, and Leader.

Where does Churchill rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Without question the extraordinary life and times of Winston Churchill are unparalleled in the history of this or any other country.

What did you like best about this story?

From the very start and the manner of his upbringing to the highs and lows of his life in the military, journalism, politics and the effect his personality had on his own and other countries. His long life read like an epic novel.

Which character – as performed by Robert Whitfield – was your favourite?

Whitfield's portrayal of Churchill was magnificent! The array of characters made the choice of a preference very hard but the feeling that this was Churchill was paramount.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The book excited, frustrated and touched throughout the telling.When they could not or would not listen to his message at home and abroad to what now seemed so blindingly obvious prior to 1939 was utter frustration.

Any additional comments?

This was a man with the failings and human frailties that possess all. But what a man and what a story. Thank God he was on our side. You could not have written the script.

  • Overall
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  • mr
  • 01-31-14

Decent

As a whole a good book. My only complaint is that there are very few external referance points used. This means it is not always clear why he is acting in a certain way. The authors personal insights into politics are very good. This helps explain why some events were catastrophic, when to the layman it would appear to be just a bad speech.

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  • C. M. E. Beckingham
  • 08-23-13

Epic

Bit of a marathon but worth the effort. Recommended for serious history buffs but bear in mind the length if you only have a passing interest.

  • Overall
  • Dave Roden
  • 10-07-12

Great biography

Overall a great biography, blighted by the occasional annoyance of silly "I'm cleverer than you" phrases in French and latin. That's bad enough but having thrown these entirely unnecessary phrases randomly in the author does not profer a translation of same. SIlly me - I keep forgetting the author is a politician, so such politico "leet speak" is only to be expected.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Ian
  • 01-16-11

Excellent

A brilliant reading of an excellent and authoritative biography. Churchill's wit and humour shines through the whole incredible story of the man and Jenkins uses extensive research to bring home the merits (and faults) of 'the finest Prime Minister of the 20th Century.'
A fine reading as well, and even an appropriate and accurate impersonation of the great man. Enjoyed it immensely

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andrew
  • 05-20-08

A great work but too long

This book is well known as an erudite and scholarly biography by a brilliant mind and fellow politician. It is well read and enjoyable in parts but I would have much preferred an abridged version. For myself, I should have been more interested in Churchill's very early years than in the very detailed political to's and fro's involving politicians that I am afraid I do not know (unlike Roy Jenkins). This is more a text to study than listen to in the car.

4 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • r
  • 04-28-12

To biased


Gave the benefit of doubt, came across too political. I should have known better and gave up after two parts!!

1 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • William
  • 01-03-10

Dull

Roy Jenkins achieves the difficult feat of making Churchill boring. This is a very long winded book that sets out to be serious and academic at the expense of colour and personality.

2 of 10 people found this review helpful