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Publisher's Summary

The number-one New York Times best seller.

A startling, gripping portrait of what it was like to be alive in britain during the Blitz, and what it was like to be around Churchill. 

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next 12 months, the Nazis would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons and destroying two million homes.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson gives a new and brilliantly cinematic account of how Britain’s most iconic leader set about unifying the nation at its most vulnerable moment, and teaching ‘the art of being fearless’. 

Larson follows Churchill as prime minister through the fraught meeting rooms, streets and air raids of London’s darkest year, and Churchill as family man into his home, where tensions were just as complicated: his wife, Clementine; their daughters, Sarah, Diana, and the youngest, Mary, who chafed against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph; his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; her illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the cadre of close advisors who comprised Churchill’s ‘Secret Circle’.

Drawing on once-secret intelligence reports and diaries, number one best-selling author Larson takes listeners from the shelled streets of London to Churchill’s own chambers, giving a vivid vision of true leadership, when – in the face of unrelenting horror – a leader of eloquence, strategic brilliance and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together. 

©2020 Erik Larson (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"Every time Churchill took to the airwaves it was as if he were injecting adrenaline-soaked courage directly into the British people...Larson tells the story of how that feat was accomplished...Fresh, fast and deeply moving." (New York Times)

"There are countless books about World War II, but there’s only one Erik Larson...There are many things to admire about The Splendid and the Vile, but chief among them is Larson’s electric writing. The book reads like a novel, and even though everyone (hopefully) knows how the war ultimately ended, he keeps the reader turning the pages with his gripping prose." (NPR)

"A particularly gripping read, written with bounce and brio. Larson pulls together vivid vignettes – some moving, some amusing, a few grim...A fine writer of narrative nonfiction history." (Robbie Millen, Times)

What listeners say about The Splendid and the Vile

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Absolutely brilliant

The best book I have ever read. Amazing. Loved it. So sad when I got to the end.

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Fabulous

This is a terrific book so interesting and narration by Matt Addis. What an interesting man Churchill was. This is well worth a listen.

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  • Mehmet Ratip
  • 06-07-2020

Addis is great

Matt Addis's performance is impeccable. Makes the book come to life. Though Larson's thread is at times sketchy, the book is yet another testimony to his devotion to detail and facts.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mats Jacobsson
  • 25-04-2020

To be binged on.

Excellent story, excellently told. I really binged on this one, doesn't happen to often these days. These personalities don't seem to be manufactured these days.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Cecelia Payn
  • 02-04-2021

A supburb read.

That was a truly remarkable and decidedly not dreary insight into the character of Churchill and of the people who surrounded him. I loved the narrator who just gave the book that added dimension to characterization by slipping expertly into the voices of those who spoke from diaries or memoirs. Excellent.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-03-2021

enjoyable listing.

I enjoyed the presentation of historical happenings in a novel fashion most .
cleverly put together. well done.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-02-2021

Full of life, great narration

Excellent performance and such a well put together and engaging tale of Churchill's finest hour

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  • Tomas
  • 27-01-2021

A giant among man

Hard to summarize such an extraordinary story.

The book reveals Churchill's leadership skills and provides an intimate look of how the war progressed and decisions were made.

I did not want it to finish, very powerful and moving.

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  • JonathanG
  • 19-12-2020

Splendid.

The story of the Blitz is told with the perspective of Churchill and his family. Recommended for those who are interested in the Second World War.

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  • Peter B N Yeates & Stephanie Dinah Withers
  • 05-03-2020

Simply The Best

What luck I have had it buying this truly splendid well narrated and masterpiece of pre and complete wartime history. I have a library of over 400 audible books which includes almost every Churchill books there are. This book is the only one you really need. It’s breadth of detail and it’s riveting coverage is simply the very best. Moreover It is unique with new information delivered with excellent narration that seems to defy one resting from listening. It is a prize to own and truly after a lifetime of listening simply the now the best I own.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Mike Mahoney
  • 20-09-2020

A Very American Viewpoint

This is a thoroughly researched book that’s packed with details about the first year of Churchill’s premiership. However, it’s aimed at an American audience and is a very American interpretation of history, meaning that all of the events, including the Blitz, the Battle of Britain and the Shakespearean defiance of Churchill’s speeches, are chiefly seen through the lens of their impact on Roosevelt or American public opinion.

This isn’t a criticism - it’s an American book, after all - but more of a health warning to non-American listeners who are used to viewing these events in their wider historical context.

6 people found this helpful

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  • colin mckenzie
  • 16-11-2020

Churchill for children

This book draws heavily upon Jock Colville's Fringes of Power, which in my opinion is a much better history of this period. Splendid and Vile (a silly title) is written by an American for Americans, using for example, gas rather than petrol and Fall rather than Autumn. It is a rather dumbed down version of events with sketchily drawn characters. It really doesn't add much to the Churchill story.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-04-2020

Utterly Splendid.

This book has had me gripped from the first word until the last. The level of detail covered throughout is second to none. I really felt like you were walking along side Churchill for his first year as a Prime Minister. Fantastic book, loved it, and if I could I would offer six stars as a review I would. Splendid!

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  • Phil A.
  • 22-02-2021

Read many a Churchill book this was the best

Reads like a novel but is historically spot on. Interesting diversions reveal the lives and thoughts of those closest to WSC, and particularly his family members. Just a great and easy listen. Superbly well narrated by Matt Adis.

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  • The Aardvark
  • 28-08-2020

What a superb book!

I was so sad to finish this book! The people and their characters are so much brought to life that you feel you're parting with friends. As a non-history buff myself, I'd particularly recommend this book to anyone who usually listens to fiction and who loves learning about people. The narration was also excellent and really helped to visualise the many different characters. Hugely enjoyed it and would higly recommend it!

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  • Greta Evans
  • 15-07-2020

The best book I've listened to!

As a British woman, you'd think I would know the history of the Blitz and what followed. Unfortunately I wasn't taught this in school. I loved this book so much. If you want to hear the intimate thoughts of Churchill, his family, his aides and from their own diaries explaining in easy to understand terms about this time then this is for you. The conversations via cable from Churchill to Roosevelt and also the conversations of Hitler, Goebbels and Hass. Tou get an all round feel to what exactly was happening. The love affairs, the fact that whatever our British people went through, which is also detailed and not white washed, through the blackout and the bombs, we did indeed get up out of the shelters and go to work and have the courage every day to say Britain was worth it. Churchill was instrumental in this. His personality of always trying to think one step ahead, his plight to always show that Britain was a friend to other countries, his funny side, his not giving a care of what people though of him, it's all in this book. It's as if you are there. You feel the hurt, the pain, the tears but you are left with joy and love and pride. I will also be buying this in Hardcover because I think this is a book that should be treasured and kept for generations to never forget our resilience. Narration is brilliant. I like bite size chapters but they just made me want to continue reading. Well done to the Author for this great piece of work! Thank you.

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  • Alexander Kim
  • 01-05-2021

Fascinating! The next closest thing to time travel

Meticulous and detailed reconstruction of this year, something like War and Peace in miniature, but considerably more fascinating because it is a story about real people. One almost feels like traveling in time to that year.

The narrator Matt Addis adds powerful momentum to the story, with his artistic performance, a masterful one man show

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  • S.A.M
  • 02-04-2021

A wonderful book

So cosy! Read or listen and enjoy! Beautifully read by Matt Addis.
Thank you - all involved in this publication but most of all thank you to Erick Larson

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  • Anonymous User
  • 02-04-2021

Splendid!

Really a brilliant book. So well narrated as well. The exquisite detail and descriptions make it one of my favourite reads. Hopefully Erik will consider a version 2 to complete the war.

1 person found this helpful

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