Capsule Reviews
The Splendid and the Vile

The Splendid and the Vile

A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

I am hooked on Erik Larson. From the first time I read one of his books—The Devil in the White City, about Chicago’s 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition and a serial killer who roamed its grounds—I have been mesmerized by these works of history that pose as novels. Somehow Larson scans the same events the rest of us see and discovers unlikely and little-known episodes to write about, beautifully and thrillingly. 

However, I was surprised to learn that the subject of Larson’s latest book is nearly the opposite. The event is one of the most closely examined and widely described of the twentieth century: Winston Churchill’s leadership of Great Britain during World War II. Larson’s approach is to take us, day by day, through Churchill’s first year in office, bringing his family, his associates, and his opponents blazingly alive. All the little details, rather than putting us to sleep, somehow jolt us and place us at Churchill’s side. Amazingly, it works.

How? It’s Erik Larson.


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