• The Splendid and the Vile

  • A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
  • By: Erik Larson
  • Narrated by: John Lee, Erik Larson
  • Length: 17 hrs and 49 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (11,625 ratings)

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The Splendid and the Vile

By: Erik Larson
Narrated by: John Lee, Erik Larson
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Interview: Erik Larson returns with an utterly gripping account of WWII-era family life and heroic leadership during one of history’s most anxious eras.

Erik Larson on How Winston Churchill Kept Calm in a Crisis
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  • The Splendid and the Vile
  • Erik Larson on How Winston Churchill Kept Calm in a Crisis

Publisher's summary

The number one New York Times best-selling author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers a fresh and compelling portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz.

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2020 BY The Washington PostHuffPostThe Seattle TimesLit HubThe WeekPopSugar

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next 12 months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally - and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people "the art of being fearless." It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and, of course, 10 Downing Street in London.

Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports - some released only recently - Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s "Secret Circle", to whom he turns in the hardest moments.

The Splendid and the Vile takes listeners out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.

This audiobook includes a recording of Winston Churchill's 1941 Christmas Eve speech.

©2020 Erik Larson (P)2020 Random House Audio

Critic reviews

"What Larson brilliantly provides are the finer details of the effects on England as he focuses on the family and home of its dynamic, idiosyncratic, and indefatigable leader.... Larson's skill at integrating vast research and talent for capturing compelling human dramas culminate in an inspirational portrait of one of history’s finest, most fearless leaders." (Booklist, starred review)

"A captivating history of Churchill’s heroic year, with more than the usual emphasis on his intimates." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

"The kind of page-turner you always want in a history book but rarely get...Larson gives the reader a ‘you are there’ sense of the intensity of Churchill’s work with his team on life-and-death challenges - and solving them at a pace I found to be mind-blowing." (Bill Gates, GatesNotes)

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