Sunday, October 13, 2019

On My Radar: Erik Larson's The Splendid and the Vile

You all are used to this blog primarily talking about crime fiction, but-- believe it or not-- I'm not All Crime Fiction All the Time. I occasionally sneak something else into the mix, and today that "something else" is going to be a book that isn't a mystery.

*GASP* It's shocking, I know!

There are some non-fiction writers who've spoiled me because they have the knack of writing about their subjects in such a way that you'd swear you were reading the best fiction. I've always been interested in history, but I've lost count of the number of books that were an absolute chore to slog through because the author's writing style was so dull and dusty. Well, you can't accuse Erik Larson of that. With books like Isaac's Storm about the hurricane that almost wiped out Galveston, Texas in 1900 and The Devil in the White City about a serial killer on the loose at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, I've learned that he can tell you exactly what happened in such a way that you can't turn the pages fast enough.

When I learned that Larson had a new book coming out, it was cause for celebration-- especially since he'd chosen to write about one of my favorite historical figures, Winston Churchill. Let's find out more about The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz...

Available March 3, 2020!

"On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, 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 (30,000 of them Londoners) and destroying two million homes. It was up to Churchill to hold the country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally–that she was 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 brinksmanship but also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country house, Chequers, and his wartime residence, Ditchley, where Churchill and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest. Drawing on a wealth of untapped sources, including recently declassified files, intelligence reports, and personal diaries only now available, 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 daughters, Sarah, Diana, and the youngest, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; her illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the cadre of close advisors who comprised Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” including his dangerously observant private secretary, John Colville; newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook; and the Rasputin-like Federick Lindemann.

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, strategic brilliance, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together."

For those of you who don't care for non-fiction or Winston Churchill, I know you probably didn't even bother reading this entire post (but I thought I'd mention you anyway). And that's perfectly all right. However, if you love mysteries, rest assured, that I'll be back to anticipating new crime fiction releases in the very near future!


  1. Oh, this does sound fantastic, Cathy! I'm with you, too, about non-fiction that reads like fiction. That's the best kind. I'll have to put this one on my radar, too!

  2. I've really enjoyed all of Eric Larson's books that I've read. This one sounds very interesting. I don't always read mysteries and crime novels either - in fact, I'm going to talk about that a little tomorrow. It's good for us to 'step out' a little, right?

  3. I'm interested in this one because I do enjoy nonfiction about WWII, Church Churchill, and the the blitz. Churchill's eloquence is a sharp contrast to today's politicians.

  4. Wow, anxious to see how he tackles Churchill! Will be on the lookout.


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