I am a devoted fan of author Erik Larson. I have read five of his books: The Devil in the White City; Dead Wake: The Last Voyage of the Lusitania; In the Garden of Beasts; Isaac’s Storm and his latest, The Splendid and The Vile. The consistency of his writing is amazing. He never disappoints. I’ve read other authors who will release a New York Times best-seller that sounds interesting. I like what I read so I buy a second book by that author–and I’m disappointed. Not so with Erik Larson.
His books are not for every reader. I like being immersed in history. Non-textbook history. What makes Larson’s books so fascinating, so difficult to put down, is his research, the meticulous documentation. He is painstaking. He presents facts–that’s expected. What’s unexpected are the vivid insights into the real lives of the characters who have made history or changed its course completely. He reveals their traits, their quirks and their idiosyncrasies. A Larson book reads almost like a novel…dramatic, dynamic and exciting because he researches personal diaries, journals and sometimes reveals secrets that were never intended for the public to see.
The Splendid and the Vile documents the relentless and brutal bombing of Britain during World War II. And about the one incredible force that saved the British empire from the brink of threatened annihilation through sheer stubborn will. Winston Churchill …stubby little man in a black bowler. Bulldog who surrounded himself with some of the brightest and most dedicated men of his time. A man who could laugh at Hitler’s fallacies one minute and cry at the ruin of his beloved England the next.
Winnie was not loved by everyone. Feared by some who questioned his methods, reviled by some politicians who wanted to unseat him. A man of the people, he walked through the rubble of London in tears and those who were homeless, broken in spirit and hopeless were suddenly renewed simply by his presence.
The Splendid and the Vile is a little over 500 pages of superb reading. Even the sources and acknowledgments are fascinating. If you like narrative history….if you want to be fascinated with events that shaped the world….you should read Erik Larson. I recommend starting with In the Garden of Beasts— a unique perspective on Hitler’s rise to power and the inception of the Nazi regime. Follow it with The Splendid and the Vile for a fascinating look behind the scenes of World War II.
It is terrific reading!