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presents The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz
in conversation with NATHANIEL PHILBRICK
Harvard Book Store welcomes celebrated writer ERIK LARSON—author of the bestselling, National Book Award–nominated The Devil in the White City—for a discussion of his latest book, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz. He will be joined in conversation by noted historian NATHANIEL PHILBRICK, author of the bestselling, Pulitzer Prize–nominated Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.
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About The Splendid and the Vile
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.
Praise for The Splendid and the Vile
“What Larson brilliantly provides are the finer details of the effects on England as he focuses on the family and home of its dynamic, idiosyncratic, and indefatigable leader . . . Larson’s skill at integrating vast research and talent for capturing compelling human dramas culminate in an inspirational portrait of one of history’s finest, most fearless leaders.” —Booklist
“A captivating history of Churchill’s heroic year, with more than the usual emphasis on his intimates.” —Kirkus Reviews
“This book is peppered with eye-popping details . . . A deeply compelling work of history . . . Without resorting to heroism, it makes one long powerfully for real leadership.” —Lit Hub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2020”