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January 25, 2010

Churchill's Hour

A Novel of Defiance
Michael Dobbs - ISBN - 978-1402213922

Dobbs is nothing if not a fantastic writer. This is a novel, but only just. It is historic fiction at its best, and covers one of the darkest periods in 20th century history. Another reviewer described it as "Churchill as nature intended: Dobbs captures his famous subject with artistry. With every stroke of his brush, he etches the character deeper into the memory. It is beautifully done." Hard to improve upon that. I've read a lot about Churchill, but this gives one a real understanding of what motivated this historic giant.

The early chapters are about Winston's desperate attempts to rouse the Parliament to face Hitler, as he knew must be done. Later he was elected Prime Minister, whereafter he exercised comparable effort to motivate the U.S. to enter the conflict.

Along the way he remarkably observed to his daughter-in-law that "after the war is over, whoever holds the reins of authority, it will not be Britain." It would be a new world; a young world. Britain's days in command would be over. Pamela asks whom he would choose. His answer was "America." Better them than Russia or Germany. "Even though at times they [Americans] totter around like blind men . . . [and] they don't understand that all men are not as they are. Even when they stumble over the truth they pick themselves up and carry on as if nothing has happened." And they are optimists, believing they can achieve whatever they decide to undertake.

Dobbs explores the depths of Germany's depravity, with its declaration of war against their ally, Stalin. He describes the terror and destruction of England--especially London--by the Nazi bombers as he chronicles the stoic heroism of the English. All of this in real life terms with clarity that helps the uninitiated understand just how awful war is, and how it must be endured when necessary. Churchill, without doubt, was responsible for the sustenance which kept Britain and its people sane and engaged. The sacrifices were numerous, challenging and costly.

Aware that he must succeed, Winston posited that had he failed at Trafalgar, Nelson would have been tried and convicted. His future was no less at risk. So he involved Averill Harriman, sent by Roosevelt to work with him in the effort. Harriman became caught up in an affair with Pamela (who later became Pamela Harriman, you might recall) and Winston had the dilemma of using both, or perhaps losing the war. How much, and what would he sacrifice to save his country?

The "fiction" in this passionate work involves Dobbs' conjecture over events in life which go unmentioned; emotions, inspirations and ambitions; the "inner events" which motivate us all. It is in this area that Dobbs shines, writing a gripping narrative of events, conversations and encounters equal to those in Killer Angels, and most anything that Bernard Cornwell writes.

And it is fantastic history as well; far better than reading dry history books about the war. Enjoy!

Posted by Curmudgeon at January 25, 2010 1:38 PM