The author Roy Jenkins, now deceased, was a distinguished British parliamentarian who occupied many senior cabinet positions, was president of the European Commission and Chancellor of Oxford University. Perhap most relevantly he was also the author of several excellent political biographies and a writer of considerable style and insight.
The books tells the entire story of Churchill's life from his lonely childhood to his long and rather melancholy decline after his overdue retirement. His life does, of course, read rather like a romance. If one didn't know the facts to be true, it would be hard to believe them. Tales of heroism during the Spanish American War, on the North West Frontier, in the Sudan, and finally during the Boer War when he was taken prisoner and escaped. Then a political career that gave him high office at a very young age and a staggering series of triumphs and tragedies. All culminating in that moment in 1940 when man and hour came together in unforgettable fashion.
This report prepared by John Ellis
Roy Jenkins, a history professor and Member of Parliament himself as well as the author of an acclaimed bio of Gladstone, presents a fine biography of Britain's greatest 20th century figure. His own experiences uniquely qualify him to describe Churchill's political fortunes and maneuverings, although the American reader may find the Teens and Twenties either slow going or not sufficiently explanatory of Britain's odd political system -- wherein politicians regularly shopped around for a district to represent. This is a fairly traditional public and political bio, not a psychoanalysis (not that Churchill HAD much of a personal life to expose), and moves along at a surprisingly good clip despite its 900-plus pages. Jenkins fully reminds us that Churchill basically earned his living as a writer -- the contracts, writing schedules, and royalties are carefully recorded -- though politics was his "avocation." Jenkins writes cleanly and engagingly, though he seems inordinately fond of unnecessarily unusual words like "psephological" and "rumbustious." The Farrar, Straus & Giroux hardcover edition is clean until about the halfway point, whereupon one begins to encounter "Feburary" (436), "replies hardly every being allowed" (553) "shore up the the" (706), "dimayed" (721), "The opposition could chose when to relax" (837-8), and similar infelicities. Well illustrated with more than 90 b&w photos.
This report prepared by David Loftus