The Splendid and the Vile

Erik Larson

Nonfiction, 2020 | 585 pages

(80 pages are sources, bibliography, and the index)


I like the writing of Erik Larson, and this is another of his extremely well-researched and well-written books.

The story Larson tells is one year of Winston Churchill’s life, from the day he became Prime Minister during WWII, May 10, 1940, to May 10, 1941.  Unfortunately, I found it boring.  Not only is it about history, but it is about war (to me, unappealing at best; irksome at worse).

We read about Churchill the man, and the book is sprinkled, not very judiciously, with tidbits about his children and Churchill’s wife, Clementine.  Mostly, however, we learn about Churchill’s relationships with his advisers, his strategy to engage the US, war strategy, the Blitz (important and comparatively interesting), fighters, bombers, incendiaries, explosions, war-time production, and massive destruction and death.  (The epilogue, nevertheless, provides solid conclusions of the individual players.)

This is a book club read so I managed to complete it.  I cannot recommend it, though. (My apologies, Marian).

Septmeber 2021


2 responses on “The Splendid and the Vile

  1. Carol Smalley

    This may not be Eric Larsen’s best book, but I liked it. I thought the first several chapters were the driest. After I got past those, I found that Churchill’s perseverance with Roosevelt, and ministers interesting based on what he was trying to do. It was also interesting to me to learn more about his family. And time and again I thought, would I go off to work the morning after I spent a night in an air raid shelter? And I did not realize how many other cities in Britain were devastated by German bombs. Reading a bit of the book over time is worth it.

    1. Andrea Sigetich Post author

      Thanks for your comments, Carol (this is your first time commenting, isn’t it?) I like your perspective. I thought the bits on his family were caricatures and light, and that disappointed me, especially the way the book was marketed. You may just be right — reading it is worth it. Even if it IS boring!!! I like that!