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on 5 September 2009
This is an excellent account of the internal politics within the Conservative Party and the small group opposed to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Adolf Hitler in the years before the war and immediately leading up to the Norway Debate in the House of Commons in May 1940 which, although the Government still had a majority of 81, resulted in Chamberlain's resignation and his replacement as Prime Minister by Winston Churchill.

There are few heroes in this story as the "troublesome young men" were often notorious wet blankets when it canme to opposing their own government in the lobbies. Churchill himself is seen as more of an embarrassment by the small group of mainly young MPs who are opposed to Chamberlain's policy who see Anthony Eden as their preferred candidate to replace Chamberlain and it is only when Eden proves hopelessly indecisive that they fall, somewhat reluctantly, behind Churchill. However one of those heroes is Ronald Cartland, brother of the romantic novelist, who refuses to be cowed by the threats of the Conservative Party machine, headed by a former Director of MI6, and who was to be tragically killed in the BEF's retreat to Dunkirk. Another is Leo Amery, older than Churchill, who had been at school with him and who delivered the most effective speech against Chamberlain concluding with Cromwell's famous dismissal of the Rump Parliament in 1653:

"Depart, I say, and let us have done with you!"

Amery was one of the few of the rebels to be given high government office after Churchill became Prime Minister when he was made Secretary of State for India (a curious choice as he had differed with Churchill before the war over Indian policy) although one, Harold Macmillan, did go on to become Prime Minister. Despite the title men are not exclusively featured. There are heroines too, including the Duchess of Atholl, the only MP to resign and fight a bye-election over Chamberlain's policy who is, however, brutally trampled underfoot during the campaign and Asquith's daughter, Lady Violet Bonham Carter, on close terms with the rebels despite her Liberal affiliation, whose diary provides the source-book for much of the narrative of the book.

There are excellent pen portraits of all the characters involved, particularly the raffish Bob Boothby, involved in a relationship with Macmillan's wife, Dorothy. Ms Olson points out the contradiction between Chamberlain's treatment of Hitler, which was conciliatory, and his treatment of the dissidents within his own party, which was ruthless and unyielding and involved phone-tapping and spying. Maybe had it been the other way round the Second World War might have been avoided and Chamberlain's reputation would stand considerably higher today.

This is a must-read for all those interested in both the history of WWII and in political intrigue generally and is an excellent companion piece to Simon Ball's "The Guardsmen". Ultimately it is a story of the courage of a few politicians who, at a critical point in Britain's history, were willing to set aside their own interests and those of their party and, in Amery's words, "speak for England".
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on 21 October 2010
This is a very well written and researched book that is an eye-opener into the events of the late 1930s and how the European Great Powers desperately did not want to go to war, remembering the events of 20 years earlier. What is not appreciated is the lengths to which the government went to maintain the policy of appeasement. What is revealed by the book is how loyalty to others played such a big part. I was amazed at how loyal Churchill was to Chamberlain once he had been brought into the government. The book revealed the stifling effect of the British Public School system and how it brought men together in a bond that was so tight that actually interfered in the decision making that affected the country. This is a very enjoyable book and one from which so much can be learnt today. I cannot recommend it more highly.
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on 11 November 2014
This a book I should have read sixty years ago. The heroes and villains are clearly defined in the roles they fulfilled which is very different to the popular understanding of these events. There is an understanding and compassion in the author's view of the reasons for the people acting in the way they did. I am 83 and what these people did ensured my future - I am grateful to have the chance to appreciate this historical research.
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on 18 July 2012
I loaned this book three times. Twice I successfully asked for its return; once, it had been re-loaned. So I have had to purchase another copy for my reference library.I think that says a lot about the subject matter and how the author tells the rotten tale. Seems to me that the behaviour of that whole pack of politicians at the time was par for the course. Chamberlain, having been shafted, is the only one of them who comes out with any degree of honour intact. Churchill (am I surprised?) had learned his craft well from the Wizard from Wales and in that vein I would also recommend, as a companion tale, "Lloyd George & Churchill - Rivals for Greatness" by Richard Toye.
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on 24 December 2013
I can't understand how I missed this excellent book first time round (2008). It's a wonderful read, crackles with insights, and I will now proceed to buy her other books. Highly recommended.
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on 1 March 2013
I bought this book for a winston churchill fan for christmas and it went down a torm. he loved how it viewed mr chruchill from another point of view and the spin that was surrounding him in his younger years. the book arrived well packaged and is a great size and contains lots of pictures and snippets. glad i bought!
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on 4 August 2013
Excellent outline of the state of the looneys who were Nazi sympathisers. Even after months of war, they still believed that if we left Hitler alone to occupy all of mainland Europe, we would be left in peace. Yeah right !
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on 2 June 2015
an interesting read
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on 16 October 2014
Highly revealing and educational. In retrospect, it's classic evidence of history repeating itself. For Sudetenland in 1938 read Ukraine in 2014.
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on 24 October 2009
A good read that produced facts previously unknown to me but was biased to two of the main protagonists - Boothby and Cartland. However once I started it didnt take long to get to the end.
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