THE LAST LION by William Manchester
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Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-1940
Age Range: 1874 - 1932
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The second volume in Manchester's masterly three-part biography (Visions of Glory, 1874-1932; 1983) of Winston Churchill, which now limns as well as lionizes the aging Tory during his political exile. Sympathetically portrayed here as "the last of England's great Victorian statesmen" for his staunch defense of the empire and its values, Churchill did not beweep his outcast state. Though a parliamentary backbencher without ministerial portfolio, the sometime insider managed to stay remarkably well informed on Germany's secret rearmament and its territorial ambitions throughout the 1930's. Churchill spoke out forcefully in the House of Commons and wrote scores of articles against Hitler and the Nazi threat. Until the eleventh hour, though, he was a prophet largely without honor in his own country--and party. With anguished memories of the nation's WW I losses, the ruling Conservatives made appeasement a keystone of British foreign policy. But, while devoting detailed attention to where and how Churchill's contemporaries went wrong, Manchester does not overlook his subject's faults. For instance, Churchill's preparedness campaign suffered a serious setback when --with more loyalty than judgment--he espoused the cause of Edward VIII during the abdication crisis. Nor can Churchill's relationships with his children--notably, Randolph and Sarah--be deemed much of a success. On balance, of course, there were decidedly more credits than debits to his account during the gathering storm, and he became the moral equivalent of a consensus choice for Prime Minister after the onset of WW II. Manchester closes on a triumphant note: the May 19, 1940, radio address in which Churchill enjoined the British to brace for battle and "their finest hour." An eloquent and evenhanded appreciation. The text includes photographs (not seen).
Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1988
ISBN: 0385313314
Page count: 800pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1988


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