Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A Churchill book recommendation

A reader has asked for a recommendation of a Churchill book somewhat in the style of The Churchill Series posts.

Sorry, there’s no Churchill book out there that bad.

Now, what about the good and the great ones?

Martin Gilbert’s one-volume Churchill: A Life and William Manchester’s two-volume The Last Lion would be on any Churchillian’s short list. Both authors provide countless amusing, interesting and often inspiring anecdotes as well as sound and insightful historical perspective.

Gilbert’s In Search of Churchill: A Historian's Journey has become one of my favorite books period. Gilbert takes the reader along with him in his search which began when Churchill’s son Randolph hired the young Gilbert just beginning his career to help him research for the multi-volume biography of his father Randolph had begun writing.

But Randolph, who according to his father’s wishes was to be Churchill’s official biographer, died after completing only the first two volumes of the life.

In 1968 Gilbert was selected to carry on the biography and for the next twenty years it was his principal occupation. He completed the biography in 1988 with the publication of the 8th volume, Never Despair.

Here’s some of what one reviewer said about In Search of Churchill: A Historian’s Journey:

This brilliant account is at once a striking portrayal of Winston Churchill as seen through the eyes of those closest to him and a rare, inside look at "the Agatha Christie side of the historian's art" (London Financial Times).

In Search of Churchill reveals the staggering extent of Gilbert's research, an epic undertaking that he began in 1962 as Randolph Churchill's assistant. From that auspicious beginning to the exultant moment when, some twenty-five years later, the author "reached the final file in the bottom drawer of the last filing cabinet," we witness the extraordinary process of countless interviews, of digging ever more deeply to dispel the myths and stereotypes, of alternately charming and cajoling those sources reluctant to confide.

Now, share some of the great moments in Martin Gilbert's pursuit, and meet an unforgettable cast of characters along the way: secretaries, assistants, diarists, correspondents, soldiers, politicians, civil servants; the eminent and the unknown.

All had tales to tell, many appearing for the first time in this book. …
Yes, the reviewer is very “rah-rah,” but the book calls for “rah-rahs.”

The Gilbert and Manchester books I’ve mentioned are in print; and with some net searching you can also pick up good-condition used copies.

Thanks for asking, reader.

And that’s enough from me.

What about the rest of you? What are your favorite Churchill books, and why?


alvah@ said...

Kay Halle wrote about Winston and Randolph.

Anonymous said...

Gilbert also wrote,"Jennie" about WSC's mother.