The Splendid and the Vile

The Splendid and the Vile Summary

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers an intimate chronicle of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz—an inspiring portrait of courage and leadership in a time of unprecedented crisis
“One of [Erik Larson’s] best books yet . . . perfectly timed for the moment.”—Time • “A bravura performance by one of America’s greatest storytellers.”—NPR 
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book ReviewTimeVogue • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago TribuneThe Globe & Mail • Fortune • Bloomberg • New York Post • The New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews • LibraryReadsPopMatters

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.
The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.

Book Reviews

SEC rules!

Easy to read history5 star

Informative and insightful, this book paints a picture of Britain under Churchill in the darkest days when the Empire stood alone against the Nazis.55


The Splendid and the Vile - very good4 star

Great review of Churchill’s first year as PM and how life continued during those dangerous days. Very good read. Very interesting, and new to me, presentation of material.45

The Real Fab One

A big disappointment1 star

The book itself provides some interesting details, but I didn’t finish reading it. I stopped reading it because the ebook version for Apple devices is just plain lousy. Underlining or highlighting passages all too often doesn’t work as it should—and that disgusted me.15


Most Splendid,indeed5 star

Spectacular view of WWII from 10 Downing Street and the heart of the British fight against Hitler’s forces.55


Well told5 star

What a year! Larson's weaving together the public and personal accounts of Churchill's first year as PM is magnificent.55


Splendid and the Vile5 star

Riveting and full of little known idiosyncrasies!55


Interesting5 star

Good read!55


Amazing Character Study5 star

A thoroughly enjoyable portrait of Winston Churchill told in stressful times by the people and events that surrounded him, he truly rose to the challenge.55

foreget about it

Wonderful5 star

Excellent read55

andrew boll

Despite 600 pages, I wish it was longer and was sad it ended5 star

Wonderful read, a page turner throughout. Great insight on Churchill and his family in the first year of ww2.55

Other Books by Erik Larson

The Devil in the White City


The Devil in the White City
4.5     2106
In the Garden of Beasts


In the Garden of Beasts
4     2982
Dead Wake


Dead Wake
4.5     1264

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