The Splendid and the Vile Book Summary - The Splendid and the Vile Book explained in key points
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The Splendid and the Vile summary

Erik Larson

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

4.6 (120 ratings)
35 mins

Brief summary

'The Splendid and the Vile' by Erik Larson is a gripping account of Winston Churchill's first year as Prime Minister of the UK during WWII. It highlights his leadership and personal life, as well as the resilience of the British people in the face of constant danger and adversity.

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    The Splendid and the Vile
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    From day one, Churchill was clear on his goal: getting American help. 

    By May 1940, the writing was on the wall. The Nazi army had invaded France, Britain’s ally. War was coming to the British people, whether they liked it or not. 

    Churchill came to power after Parliament passed a vote of no confidence in Neville Chamberlain, who had tried to appease Hitler’s expansionist tendencies. It was a scary time for the UK. Any observer would have said that Britain had no chance against the massive Nazi war machine. But unlike Chamberlain – and essentially everyone else – Churchill was brazenly confident that Britain could win the coming war. 

    Now all Churchill had to do was convince his country and, just as importantly, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the UK had a chance. Churchill knew he couldn’t win the war without the Americans. 

    The key message here is: From day one, Churchill was clear on his goal: getting American help. 

    For their part, the Americans weren’t at all interested in sending their young men, yet again, to the battlefields of Europe. The US government was also leery of working with Churchill. “Apparently,” said the secretary of the interior, “he is very unreliable under the influence of drink.”

    It’s true that Churchill did things differently. For one thing, he favored working during his twice-daily bath. If the phone rang while he was in the bath, he would climb naked and dripping from the tub to retrieve it from his private secretary. At all hours, he would pad through the halls of the official residence in brilliantly flowered dressing gowns, stabbing a dead cigar in the air when he wanted to make a point.

    The British people loved him, and he took their trust seriously. His first speech to the House of Commons demonstrated his signature oratory style: a sober appraisal of facts followed by reason for measured optimism. “I have nothing to offer,” he said, “but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.”

    Despite the grim state of affairs, his government was imbued with energy from day one. Everyone, from the lowest secretary to the highest minister, was pulling in the same direction – stop Germany from invading England, and win the war. Respectable civil servants could actually be seen running through the corridors to their appointments. 

    The new resolve Churchill brought to his office didn’t come a moment too soon. Things were about to get a lot worse.

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    What is The Splendid and the Vile about?

    The Splendid and the Vile (2020) is a meticulously researched account of Winston Churchill’s first year of leadership. Beginning in 1940, he led the country through France’s surrender, the miraculous rescue at Dunkirk, and the Nazi air force’s bombing blitz of the UK, which killed over 44,000 Brits. Through it all, he retained his sense of humor and charming eccentricities that ensure him a fond place in our collective memory.

    The Splendid and the Vile Review

    The Splendid and the Vile (2020) by Erik Larson is a captivating account of Winston Churchill's leadership during WWII. Here's why this book is a must-read:

    • Packed with fascinating historical details, it provides a vivid portrayal of Churchill's courage and resilience in the face of adversity.
    • By weaving together diaries, letters, and firsthand accounts, the book offers a nuanced perspective on the impact of the war on everyday life in Britain.
    • With its compelling storytelling and meticulous research, it brings to life the complexities of wartime politics and the human spirit in the face of great challenges.

    Who should read The Splendid and the Vile?

    • World War II nerds
    • People interested in eccentric histories
    • Anyone curious about Winston Churchill’s legacy

    About the Author

    Erik Larson is an American journalist and the author of five best sellers, which have collectively sold 9 million copies. His other notable titles include Devil In The White City and Thunderstruck.

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    The Splendid and the Vile FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Splendid and the Vile?

    The main message of The Splendid and the Vile is how Winston Churchill's leadership during the Blitz saved Britain.

    How long does it take to read The Splendid and the Vile?

    The reading time for The Splendid and the Vile varies, but it takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The Splendid and the Vile a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Splendid and the Vile is a captivating read with a fresh perspective on Churchill's leadership. It's definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of The Splendid and the Vile?

    The author of The Splendid and the Vile is Erik Larson.

    What to read after The Splendid and the Vile?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Splendid and the Vile, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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