Friday, October 22, 2010

Winston's War by Max Hastings

I’ve completed listening to Winston’s War: Churchill 1940 to 1946 by Max Hastings (2010, 576 p.). I hesitated to start another book on Churchill, as I’ve read a great deal about him already. He is, I think, the most written-about figure in the 20th century. Indeed, when we cleaned out my mom’s house we found a montage of Churchill that I’d done in 6th grade. Can there be anything new under the sun? Well, in this case, yes.
Hastings has written a fascinating book. Indeed, there is a lot that I learned that I either never knew or appreciated. Hastings does all this with a very judicious eye about what is near craziness (WSC was impulsive) and what amounts to heroic leadership. Churchill faced a number of challenges upon taking the premiership in May 1940 through the time he was deposed by voters in July 1945. Dealing with the English people, dealing with the mutual suspicions of Americans and Brits toward one another, wooing FDR (only to have FDR later shun him so that FDR could woo Stalin), having meetings and decisions reported to Stalin by Soviet agents before meetings could even begin—these are just a few of the matters considered by Hastings. Add in the use of area bombing (of civilian centers such as Hamburg and Dresden), the use of local resistance fighters (probably not worth the toll on civilians), and various military misadventures, and you get a sense of all the complicated decisions that WSC faced (or chose not to face) during his time. The complicated history of WWII is seen through the actions of this one man and considered by this gifted historian makes for a terrific read. The brevity of my post here belies the terrific enthusiasm that I have for this book. Highly recommended.

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