Reviews for Last Lion : Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965


Booklist Reviews 2012 October #2
*Starred Review* The second volume of the late Manchester's Churchill biography (The Last Lion: Alone, 1988) left its audience in suspense with Churchill's appointment as British prime minister in May 1940 and in anticipation of how Manchester would present Churchill's and Britain's finest hour in WWII. Foiled by illness, Manchester tapped Paul Reid, who has magnificently completed Manchester's work. Opening with a character sketch of Churchill in his multifaceted guises of sentimentality, egotistical insensitivity, and brilliance, Reid dives into Churchill's war leadership in 1940 that is the cynosure of his place in history. Reid's got the research right, down to the day, down to the minute. He shows Churchill defying Hitler and appeasers--the French leadership and figures in the British government--who even in 1940 thought peace could be arranged with the triumphant Nazis. As Reid chronicles Churchill's public speeches, communications, and strategy sessions, he affords regular glimpses at Churchill's private aspects--his wittiness, sybaritic consumption of scotch and cigars, and moods bordering on depression. If reading Churchill's life after 1945 entails an unavoidably anticlimactic quality, Reid nevertheless ably chronicles its main events of writing his WWII memoirs and assuming his second premiership of 1951-55. Manchester was one of the best Churchill biographers, and this capstone to his magnum opus ought not be missed. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

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BookPage Reviews 2012 December
When going through hell, keep going

Many have proclaimed Winston Churchill the greatest statesman of the 20th century. His determination and inspiring speeches played a key role in saving Britain and even Western civilization in the darkest hours of WWII. He was a complex man: demanding, insensitive, ruthless, yet at times generous and apologetic, with a natural affinity for children and animals. He was interested in science and technology but in many ways remained an upper-class Englishman of the late 19th century. He is, in short, a biographer’s dream.

The first two volumes of William Manchester’s biography of Churchill were widely acclaimed. Manchester died in 2004, but not before tapping award-winning journalist Paul Reid to finish the third volume in the trilogy. The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 covers Churchill’s first days as Britain’s prime minister (and his return to the office in 1950), the Second World War, the beginnings of the Cold War, the writing of his memoirs and his death.

When Churchill became prime minister in 1940, he had prepared for the moment in many ways for six decades. Yet it is important to remember that his selection was not a popular choice. He was aware of his reputation for changing sides on issues and his history of questionable strategic judgments, so he moved quickly toward reconciliation as he made his choices of War Cabinet officers. In the early days of the war, he reached out many times for help from the United States and received nothing but a sympathetic ear. Even after the U.S. entered the war, it was Churchill who made special efforts to keep the “Big Three” working, more or less, together.

Churchill had no fondness for war. He hated the carnage and regarded the glorification of war as a fraud. But, the authors write, “War’s utility was altogether another matter.” Churchill once told his private secretary, John Colville, that those who say that wars settle nothing were talking nonsense because “nothing in history was ever settled except by war.”

As the authors put it, “Churchill did not simply observe the historical continuum; he made himself part of it. . . . He did not live in the past; the past lived on in him.” This third volume of Manchester’s trilogy took almost 20 years to write, but the narrative never falters. It is a triumph and definitely worth the wait.

Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.

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Choice Reviews 2013 May
Defender of the Realm is the long-awaited third volume of the Churchill biography begun by William Manchester. The first two volumes of The Last Lion, subtitled Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 (CH, Dec'83) and Alone, 1932-40 (CH, Apr'89, 26-4632), were widely admired and did much to kindle admiration in the US for Churchill. Although Manchester had assembled notes for the third installment, his failing health unfortunately prevented him from writing it. Paul Reid, a former reporter for The Palm Beach Post, agreed to continue the project. Manchester died in 2004; although deprived of his guidance, Reid has now brought the project to completion. The third volume covers the dramatic apex of Churchill's story--his leadership of Britain in WW II, a second premiership, and the final, gentle close of a life well lived. Reid tells Churchill's story ably and well, providing a solid, readable account that is likely to continue Manchester's legacy of fostering interest in Churchill. The book should be included in any collection of Churchill biography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All public and academic levels/libraries. General Readers; Lower-division Undergraduates; Upper-division Undergraduates; Graduate Students; Researchers/Faculty; Two-year Technical Program Students; Professionals/Practitioners. J. D. Lyons Ashland University Copyright 2013 American Library Association.

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Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #2
A (very) posthumous study of the late, great British leader by the late, great popular historian, aided by journalist Reid. Just before Manchester (A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance--Portrait of an Age, 1992, etc.) died in 2004, he handed over the task of finishing his Churchill biography to Reid, who retains Manchester's habit of writing at extreme length, and it's clear where Manchester left off in his own primary research: Though the book spans the years 1940 to Churchill's death in 1965, roughly only one-tenth of it covers the "lion's" last 20 years, while the vast bulk is given over--fittingly enough--to Churchill's leadership as British prime minister during World War II. The documentation would not pass a professional historian's muster, but Manchester never wrote for historians, and general readers, as always, will be taken by his boundless abilities as a storyteller. Manchester also saw patterns that may not have been apparent to most other writers. Whereas Hitler was famously known as an artist manqu, Churchill "came at every issue with a painter's eye," whether developing a battle plan for the invasion of Italy or "parsing geopolitical matters such as continental hegemony." The great-man theory of history, too, may be pass in academia, but Manchester/Reid gladly subscribe to it, with an account of the friendship of Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt (and rivalry with Josef Stalin) that is both searching and unsentimental. The authors clearly admire Churchill, for reasons that they make evident throughout, but there is little in the way of hero worship. Indeed, their critical account of Operation Torch--which Dwight Eisenhower exaggeratedly called "the blackest day in history"--is thorough and convincing, and it does not reflect well on the cigar-chomping PM. The manuscript is replete with Manchester's journalistic flourishes, some of which cross into clich, and it's as much a monument to the author as to its subject. Essential for Manchester collectors, WWII buffs and Churchill completists. Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 June #1

With the help of notable journalist Reid, Manchester here wraps up his magisterial biography of Winston Churchill, begun with 1983's Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 and 1988's Alone, 1932-1940. (After he became ill in late 2003, Manchester asked Reid to complete the work; he died in 2004.) It's no surprise that this final volume has been over 20 years in the making, given the period it covers--starting with the war, which truly showed how Churchill could roar. Something like 440,000 copies of the first two volumes are currently in print (after all these years); expect big numbers (and demand) for this last, crucial piece.

[Page 76]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Library Journal Reviews 2012 October #1

This is the final volume of Manchester's magisterial Churchill biography begun more than 30 years ago and producing its first two volumes in 1983 and 1988, after which Manchester moved ahead with this volume. However, with the decline of his health, he was unable to continue writing and asked Reid (former features writer, Cox Newspapers) to collaborate with him. Manchester died in 2004 and Reid took over, using Manchester's vast collection of notes, interviews, and other sources to complete this massive work. Manchester's voice permeates the text and the narrative is true to his style. Churchill is revealed, warts and all, as a complex man, given to temper tantrums and moments of brilliance as he led Britain and its empire to victory in World War II. The great majority of this volume is devoted to the war, which most will agree encompassed Churchill's finest hours. VERDICT This is a big book but reads easily, filled with anecdotes from the principals. Although not a practiced historian, Reid learned well from Manchester, and the finished book is a worthy conclusion to what must be considered one of the most thorough treatments of Churchill so far produced. An essential conclusion to Manchester's magnum opus.--Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames

[Page 83]. (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #1

Before his death in 2004, an ill Manchester asked former Cox newspapers journalist Reid to take his research notes and finish writing the final volume of his trilogy. The long-delayed majestic account of Winston Churchill's last 25 years is worth the wait. Sixty-five when he became Britain's prime minister in 1940, Churchill remained a Victorian aristocrat, self-indulgent, coddled by servants. Yet his vitality, charisma, and self-assurance made him a perfect leader in a crisis. During his first year, when Britain fought Nazi Germany alone, Churchill, say the authors, may have saved civilization. Once the U.S.S.R. and U.S. joined, Britain's role declined but not Churchill's energy. While FDR left war to his generals, Churchill poured out ideas, many of them imaginative failures (the bloody landing at Anzio) or simply bad (early opposition to invading France). Despite Churchill's unparalleled popularity, his Conservative party was defeated in July 1945. Though devastated, Churchill remained the party leader, returning to office in 1951 to preside over a declining empire and escalating cold war until a repeatedly postponed retirement in 1955. Manchester (and Reid) matches the outstanding quality of biographers such as Robert Caro and Edmund Morris, joining this elite bank of writers who devote their lives to one subject. 32 pages of b&w photos, 6 maps. (Nov.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC

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