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The Fringes Of Power. 10 Downing Street Diaries 1939-1955 [Hardcover]

John Colville
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

12 Feb 1986
A bestseller in the hardcover edition, "this witty, graceful, irreverent and compulsively readable diary by Winston Churchill's wartime private secretary throws fascinating new light on the great British leader and on the inner history of the second World War".--Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 800 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition (12 Feb 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340382961
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393022230
  • ASIN: 0393022234
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15 x 6.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 42,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Author was not only the private secretary of W.S.C., but was almost the member of his family and knew many interesting details from supreme interested persons (diplomatic and military). Very brave man who fighted as pilot RAF.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Few were there.... 26 Dec 2013
By Biffo
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Really very recent historically but set in a diffrent time. Wonderful insight into the power and weaknesses of the greatest man that has ever lived and the class system that allowed him to succeed. Wouldn't happen now.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stupendous - you are THERE in wartime at 10 Downing Street 9 Nov 2004
By Thomas R. Dean - Published on Amazon.com
There are only a few works of art that manage to put one so completely in the swirl of true historical moment - this is one of them. In that sense, it is in bizarre counterpoint to say, the book and movie, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1930s Berlin among the "lumpen proletariat").

This work is fascinating - not only for the quite candid reflections of a very smart and likeable man at the top at a rare moment in history (and how vital decisions during World War II came to be made) but for its spectacular view of the high social and political scene. For example, the intimately interwoven backgrounds of SO many of the "great" (due to family or school) were, for this American, simply astounding! Truly it seems one web that tightly connects all the heralded figures in Britain, whether at university, on newspapers, in government, leading the military.

The book reflects day by day, the gossip, the rumors, the changing opinions, the reaction to the good and bad news, the snatched moments of joy, the ongoing ferment of a nation facing destruction, the frequent but irregular deaths of the loved, among the very bright and extraordinary.

You'll get wonderfully lost in these diaries (though it's wonderfully organized - with perhaps the greatest biographical sketches and footnotes I've ever seen in any book in my life).

Colville is a wonderful guide - over the pages you come to see his real virtues: his modesty, his honesty, his candor (to his diaries), his courage and his loyalty.

And of course one sees Churchill and dozens of others daily - intimately - in a time of crisis.

Come and jump into the midst of wartime Downing Street - you'll want to roll around in the vicariously felt dangers, the humor, the rumor mills among the halls of power - for days, for weeks.
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkably good 22 Jun 2014
By northkona - Published on Amazon.com
I found out about John Colville while reading the third volume of Manchester's Churchill biography, The Last Lion. This was a terrific book, enjoyed the entire thing, but it is helpful if you've done some reading about the war years and Churchill before taking this on because he mentions many people throughout the entries, and it would be meaningless if you didn't know who they were. One of the other things I picked up on is how well government people were eating and drinking throughout the war, they didn't want for much. From today's vantage point, it's kind of embarrassing to read because a variety of diaries from the war years don't omit references to eating at a half dozen clubs in London, or at each other's large homes, and the glasses of champagne are ever present.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Painfully Slow 8 April 2005
By Thomas J. Trujillo - Published on Amazon.com
Some good information contained in this book, but not much. If you want to know who is he second cousin of this count, or the sister of that

Duke, this is the book for you. Very slim on details. I kept waiting for the revelations of hows and whys of the decisions that were made during and after WW2. Instead there was nothing but generalities and references. Here is an example. Do you remember the movie A Bridge Too Far ? Well, this operation was a disaster pushed on the Allies by Churchill and more importantly Monty. Well, the diary entry in the book for the days after the battle, Colville states matter of factly that the "5th Airborne Brigade has been wiped out". Thats it! I would expect that private secretary to the PM would have more details on pre and post discussions.

Read at your own risk.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A priceless firsthand account of Churchill at war 2 Sep 2010
By MarkK - Published on Amazon.com
John Colville was a man blessed with good fortune. Born to a well-connected upper-class family, he excelled in school and capped his academic career with a first in history at Trinity College Cambridge. Fascinated by current events, he passed the Foreign Office entrance exam on the first try and was posted to the Middle East before returning home just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War. A little more than a month after the start of hostilities, he was seconded to 10 Downing Street as an assistant private secretary, an assignment that gave him a privileged vantage point from which to witness events.

Colville's decision to keep a diary predated his posting, reflecting his desire to capture his impressions about the war that he experienced. His transfer to the office of the Prime Minister, however, transformed it into a priceless firsthand account of British politics during the war. It is the first part of the diary, covering Colville's observations from September 1939 until his transfer to the RAF in October 1941, that is the highlight of the book, yet the later sections covering his return to Downing Street in 1943-5 and again in Churchill's postwar ministry are also enjoyable for their insights. Winston Churchill is naturally at the heart of these diaries, and though Colville edited his diaries for publication he let stand many of his comments from that time no matter how inaccurate and embarrassing they must have seemed later. This only enhances their value, allowing the reader to see Colville's evolving attitude towards him, which begins with concerns for Churchill's "ineffective, and indeed harmful" (p.108) efforts as First Lord before coming to respect and admire him as Prime Minister. It is from these pages that we get some of our best assessments of Churchill and the war, as well as a generous collection of his bon mots about his political contemporaries (supplemented by a few from Colville himself)

All of this makes Colville's diary an indispensable resource for anyone interested in Churchill and Britain during the Second World War. It is valuable not just for the moments he captures involving the decision makers but for its portrait of upper-class life during the war as well, a life of dinners and diversions not too constrained by wartime deprivations. Together they make for an enduring work, one that will continue to shed light while the works which draw from it collect dust on the bookshelves.
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