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on 31 December 2009
Just finished the book and I must say Sir Max has yet again produced a very readable, informative and enjoyable piece of history. His style of writing and ability to keep a clear vision of his subject means the reader never wastes time on irrelevant or superfluous pages of text, (thankyou!)...and has certainly left me with not only a clearer opinion of WSC as the 'only' leader strong willed enough to save European democracy from Nazi Germany, but also of how post war relations were set between East & West, despite Churchill's best efforts to create a fair post war Europe. Excellent book, good photos included, and very readable... highly recommended
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on 31 December 2009
What I found most interesting in this very readable book was the hostility and contempt shown by the Americans for the British. It went from grasping our every penny for munitions to fight the war, Roosevelt's deceit towards Churchill and courting of Stalin, the anglophobia of the US high commend and troops, the releuctance of the US to support British strategic operations. Churchill endured all this for the end of winning the war, it certainly showed me that the US is no friend of the UK. I'm not surprised Obama returned Churchill's bust to Britain.It has certainly opened my eyes to our trans-atlantic "cousins".
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on 18 June 2012
I enjoyed this book, although I found it a little long winded at times. Being a baby boomer born in 1946 with a desert rat,injured in North Africa and Monte Casino,for a father I may have had a 'romantic' idea of the UK's heroism in WW2 even though he rarely talked about it. This has to some degree been shattered by Max Hastings but I accept entirely his historian's viewpoint and accuracy. It was the sheer inactivity of our armed forces for long periods (particularly The Army) that was a surprise to me. It is good to read a rounded view of Churchill - clearly Hastings is an admirer but not a sycophant.
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on 7 October 2009
All the qualities you expect in a work by Max Hastings; an absolute wealth of equitably balanced information and opinion, entertainingly presented in, appropriately, more the style of Editor than Armageddon.

I imagine that most readers will already be aware of Winston's very many human faults and eccentricities and what an absolute nightmare he must have been to have worked with. Finest Years will do nothing to confound your opinion, nor persuade you that you missed the opportunity of a thousand years.
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on 2 December 2010
This is without doubt the best book I have read for a long time. I have read other books on Churchill but this one stands head and shoulders above the rest. Sir Max Hastings has yet again excelled with determined and detailed research. His knowledge of his subject and the period in history is still unsurpassed. Highly recommended - brilliant!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 January 2010
I suspect Max Hastings has read "Churchill: the greatest Briton unmasked" by Nigel Knight, which covers a lot of the same ground which is much less generous to the "great man" than Hastings.

For me the best thing about this book is the way Hastings interweaves the story of Churchill's personal travailes throughout the war with those of his countrymen and women. For example I did not know that there were more days of lost coal production through strikes in 1941 than there had been during the worst years of the depression. It is clear that Churchill didn't have as positive an impact on the general populace as we were led to believe and that a lot of his legend was self-created but it is equally apparent that without him, and him alone, Britain probably would have capitulated to the Nazis. Having said that, perhaps greater praise should be heaped on those who first of all appointed him to lead the country and then let him get on with it with careful guidance behind the scenes.

This leads to my main gripe with the book, the fact that Hastings is frequently disparaging about Alanbrooke's effectiveness when by common consent he was the one who managed to curtail Churchill's more lurid flights of strategic and tactical fancy.

Nevertheless this is easily digestible and interesting throughout as you would expect from a master of WW ii studies
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on 4 January 2014
An honest read. Churchill is portrayed as a great, but flawed, war leader, transcending the political and military background from which he became Prime Minister. From the early days of his ministry, when the nation was desperate for any good news, to the end of WW2, when he was fighting to maintain Britain's position amongst the victorious superpowers, despite Britain no longer having the muscle - political, military or financial - to sustain such a position, Churchill's leadership is examined. There were plenty of good and bad decisions, but Hastings is correct in saying that he was the right war leader at the right time, and transcended national and international politics at that time.
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on 15 February 2012
I approached this book hoping for a balanced view of Churchill's leadership in WW2. My hopes were fully realised and more. Hastings writes sympathetically about Churchill but this does not stop him being critical of his failings and mistakes of which there were more than a few. The emphasis is clearly on Churchill as a leader but there are also sufficient appearances of Churchill the man to provide emotional interest.

Hastings excels in highlighting Churchill's success as a "transformational" leader and contrasting that with failures as a "transactional" leader. (The terms transactional and transformational are taken from James MacGregor Burns's book "Leadership".) His mastery of the strategic situation and determination to support Russia in spite of his antipathy towards communism are exceedingly well described. On the other side of the coin, failures such as Churchill's intervention in tactical affairs, his attraction to commando and other special forces actions and uncomfortable personal relations with several of the people he worked with directly are also well described. Of particular note is the description of Churchill enjoying little support within the mainstream Conservative party of the day.

Hastings excels in debunking several myths about the war, notably any illusion about mutual friendships in the "special relationship" and the reputations of British military leaders, individually and a group. The special relationship is described as being very much in the US's economic interests. Interestingly, Hastings does not mention that the Lend-Lease program was cancelled almost immediately after the war under the McMahon Act, putting Britain under enormous economic pressure. Few of Britain's generals, admirals and air marshals are described in complimentary terms. Even Montgomery appears as little more than the best of a bad bunch. More revealing is the repeated lack of energy and willingness (perhaps ability) to exploit opportunities of the British Army generals in particular.

I have long been disappointed William Manchester's two-volume biography of Churchill did not extend to a third volume covering the war years. "The Finest Years" fulfills this role more than satisfactorily.
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on 31 October 2011
Although I greatly admire Max Hastings' journalism, I found this hard work and surrendered halfway through. It seemed very over written, and could have done with some radical pruning. Also, the constant criticism of the majority of our generals made me wonder how we ever won the war. Mind you, we wouldn't have won anything without Russia and the USA - and Enigma of course. Maybe Enigma above everything. Enigma was a British victory par excellence.
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"Winston's War" is, as its name implies, the story of Winston Churchill's involvement in World War II. Winston passed through a series of phases during the course of the War. At the start of the book, he provides Britain's spirit and backbone to stand alone against the might of Germany. With the invasion of Russia and the attack on Pearl Harbor, Churchill became the alliance maker. In seemingly constant motion, he bounded from conference to battlefront to home front. At the summit level, he strove to keep Roosevelt and Stalin working together and kept FDR from falling too much under Stalin's sway. Through it all he, through the force of his personality, he maintained an influence for Britain as its war contribution decreased in relationship to that of its allies.

Author Max Hastings brings out domestic political challenges that Churchill confronted when the fortunes of war were unkind to Britain. He survived a motion of censure during 1942, something most have forgotten in the shadow of his towering heroic stature. I found this book to be fascinating. The talented writing and the captivating tale it tells will draw the interest of any World War II buff.
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