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The Splendid and the Vile - Erik Larson

The Splendid and the Vile

By Erik Larson

  • Release Date: 2020-02-25
  • Genre: History
Score: 4.5
From 3,423 Ratings


#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 Review Time Vogue • NPR • The Washington Post • Chicago TribuneThe Globe & Mail • Fortune • Bloomberg • New York Post • The New York Public Library • Kirkus Reviews • LibraryReads PopMatters

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.


  • Character overload

    By mlvarr
    The history and learning about WC in this story was interesting but it had way too many characters and unnecessary details. Appears to me the author was simply creating a longer novel with very little purpose. Good to fall asleep to.
  • Fantastic book. Nothing not to like.

    By Dik76
    Read it
  • A slog of a history book. DNF

    By wildwoodjan
    A slog of a history book. DNF
  • One Terrific read.

    By Frith UFC iy
    A Fantastic historical read. I hated to put the book down each night as my old tired eyes could not read anymore. The author managed to keep my interest constantly. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in WORLD WAR II HISTORY. I am sorry I have come to the “finis” of the book. 🥸😥.
  • The Historian’s Writer

    By nmp apps
    I have rarely picked up a book that I thought was fiction, only to find it is non-fiction. It has happened to me twice, both Eric Larson books. What a pleasure to read history written by a novel writer.
  • Excellent book and a stunning portrayal of the British

    By Queueman
    I learned a great deal from this book. I hadn’t known much about Churchill before. He was truly a remarkable human being. The British resolve during a relentless onslaught was stunning and admirable.
  • Another Great Erik Larson Read

    By vickskid76
    I was expecting the same play by play of America’s involvement post December 1941 and was sadly disappointed that the book was coming to an end. I say that to say - I could have read another 500 pages. Thanks!
  • Wonderful Read

    By FLGramma
    I read a lot of history and this struck me as one of he most intimate and well written portrayals of Churchill and his family in his first year as PM. Larson acutely describes the horrors of the bombings of London, which is often not emphasized in history volumes. Most endearing were descriptions of Churchill weeping in times of great sadness. Well done.
  • Easy to read history

    By SEC rules!
    Informative and insightful, this book paints a picture of Britain under Churchill in the darkest days when the Empire stood alone against the Nazis.
  • The Splendid and the Vile - very good

    By rnordquist
    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.