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4.8 out of 5 stars
The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 May 2014
This is a remarkable, original and very enjoyable book, essential reading for understanding the unique character and abilities of Winston Churchill. It is both a biography seen through the prism of Churchill's many literary and theatrical inspirations, and an exploration of his own extensive literary career. However many `Churchill' books you have on your shelves, make room for this one too; it is outstandingly good.

Professor Rose has written a fascinating, extensively researched and enthralling study of these `artistic' aspects of Churchill and their close relationship with his military and political life. At times his almost theatrical sense of destiny caused impatience in some of his more sedate colleagues, caused him to make imaginatively successful policy decisions and some policy mistakes in search of the `dramatic' - and in 1940 enabled him to inspire and lead Britain as no one else could have done.

His anti-fascist writings and speeches (at first often blocked by pro-appeasement newspapers and politicians) gave Churchill unshakable public credentials as the essential Prime Minister when Chamberlain resigned in the spring of 1940; reprinted in America they were also instrumental in changing the anti-British attitudes that many Americans held between the two world wars.

It was fascinating to learn that his creation of a national sense of mutual trust and self-reliance in the face of (apparently) possible defeat was something the Nazi propagandists recognised, envied - and of course found impossible to copy. We also learn of the considerable influence that Churchill's writings on the horrors of the 1914-18 war and much later, on the dangers of war in the nuclear age had in post-war America - especially on President Kennedy during his subtle handling of the Cuban missile crisis.

A superb portrait of that splendidly theatrical, brilliant and uniquely important man; highly recommended.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 April 2014
This account of Churchill's writings is magnificent. It will be one of the books of the year. There are many books on Churchill but very few have focused on his voluminous writings.In the Churchill Archives at Cambridge, one out of eight boxes is devoted entirely to his literary affairs. In 1953 he won the Nobel Prize in Literature; he could have easily made a lucrative living from his writings.

This book discusses and evaluates his writings and assesses their impact on his politics. As Rose points out, Churchill's writings and his politics were very closely meshed. He was, says Rose 'an artist who used politics as his creative medium, as other writers used paper'.
The author demonstrates that literature can illuminate political behaviour in ways that more conventional methodologies cannot.

Churchill hated all forms of structured education. He once said he would rather have been a bricklayer's apprentice than steeped in education. He read few of the classics, in fact very few. His tastes were mainly contemporary.His literary diet set him apart from the political class, producing a mind that did not fit easily into conventional ideological categories. Rose says this is why he was such 'a powerful communicator'. While other politicians used Latin tags, he used quotes from Kipling, Shaw, T E Lawrence and Sinclair Lewis. Eisenhower said Churchill 'drew on everything from the Greek classics to Donald Duck for quotation'. He, of course, loved military history that is why he enjoyed writing about battles and kings.

His appetite for writing exceeded that for his other loves, brandy and whisky. In his wartime speeches he injected the country with badly needed confidence, this was his greatest achievement, not claims that he won the war. Goebbels we are told feared Churchill's rhetoric. We also learn that an edition of the latter's speeches was a best seller in the USA during the war, and was a reason for dispelling US hostility to our Empire.

Churchill was also a very good actor. He loved theatrical scenarios. Hence, his deliberate choice of clothes that included a boiler suit plus, of course, bow tie and cigar.

Rose tells us that Churchill was heavily influenced by the writings and views of H G Wells and, Lawrence in particular. One fed his love of science the other his thirst for knowledge.

Churchill was clever, egotistical and articulate. In many ways he was an eccentric. The latter led to frequent rows with party whips and party colleagues. He was frequently opposed to the views of many Tory backbenchers, many of whom never liked or trusted him.

Always strapped for money his writings brought in much needed income. His mastery of words-there is no politician today in his class-dazzled friends, foes and statesmen around the world. He was the perfect example of Disraeli's remark that 'with words we govern men'.

A superbly written, erudite and enjoyable book about a man who warts and all was a truly great statesman as well as being a literary giant.

Reading these speeches it brings home to one the dire standards of those made by today's politicians. The difference in oral English is even more pronounced.
All students whether or not they agree Churchill's politics should read his writings in order to see and learn how to write simple unambiguous English. An improvement is long overdue.

A book to cherish. Buy it.
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on 11 June 2015
Rose argues convincingly that every important political decision made by Churchill was influenced by literary experiences.

One major tenet of this argument is around “Savrola” which was Churchill’s only major novel. Nowadays it’s mostly forgotten but with uncanny prescience he prophesied a brilliant author and speaker who used his oratorical powers to defeat and evil dictator. A dictator who tears up treaties, stabs political rivals in the back, murders POWs, uses torture and recklessly seeks an armed confrontation with the British Empire.

He argues that historians have often struggled to explain why Churchill who was wrong about so many things was right about Hitler from the very beginning due to the influence of “Savrola”.

Rose also states that Churchill loved Victorian melodrama where the hero often dies valiantly or saves the day at the last minute. On the Queen Mary in the Atlantic he was warned a sub might sink the ship. He had a machine gun mounted on his lifeboat so he could engage in a shoot-out with the U Boat. “The finest way to die is in the excitement of fighting an enemy” he told Averell Harriman “you should come with me in the boat and see the fun.”

The author doesn't attempt to deify Churchill and also looks at the poor decisions that Churchill made, particularly in India. He claims that one of Churchill’s greatest failing was that he saw 20th century India through the prism of bad 19th century plays.

The book itself is not a biography, but does cover the major political activities of his life and Rose’s approach offers a vibrant and fascinating study on the influence of literature and theatre on Churchill’s political career.
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on 4 July 2014
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