Review: The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz, by Erik Larson

There are literally thousands of books about Churchill. Erik Larson’s unique selling point seems to be his focus on Churchill’s family life, and in particular his weekends away from London during the Blitz. For me, this worked. It’s a compelling story, very well told, and though I thought I knew quite a bit about the period there is much that I didn’t know. Normally we are presented with a rather simple story of World War II: first the Germans were winning, then the Allies. But it was more complicated than that, with many false starts. For example, Churchill thought that the tide of battle had turned in North Africa — and then Rommel came along. And I was not aware of how ineffective the RAF and its legendary Fighter Command was at the beginning of the Blitz. The Luftwaffe, for all it ineptness, did surprisingly well. A very readable account of what must count as the worst year of the last century.