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The Splendid and the Vile

A Saga of Churchill, Family and Defiance During the Blitz
Narrated by: Matt Addis
Length: 20 hrs and 31 mins
4.6 out of 5 stars (25 ratings)

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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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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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  • 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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  • 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.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 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.

6 people found this helpful

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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!

2 people found this helpful

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  • scrummymummy
  • 19-09-2020

Loved it

I already knew quite a lot about Churchill and the British experience of World War 2 ...but this new book is so fresh and compelling and often unexpectedly funny or moving. I absolutely loved it. As I am listening in the middle of our pandemic (such a boring crisis...) it also allows reflections that perhaps our current leaders seem lacking by comparison. I would also congratulate the narrator for doing a really great job.

1 person found this helpful

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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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  • Kindle Customer
  • 19-05-2020

Brilliant

Brilliant . Wanted it to go on and on. so completely engaged I was upset when it finished.

1 person found this helpful

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  • AM
  • 05-10-2020

Fascinating Insight

A very enjoyable fascinating insight into the personal lives of many of the main characters during the second world war. Including primarily Sir Winston Churchill and his family and friends. It is sobering to learn how very close to losing the war we actually came, although they were many successes there were also just as many failures.

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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.

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  • shannybong
  • 12-07-2020

Splendid

This book exemplifies the greatest period of English history. Its combination of political and personal detail creates an amazing picture of life at this time. If you only read one book about World War 2 it should be this one

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-05-2020

Good, but.....

Very good story and well researched, but.... The narrator was British, however, it soon became apparent that the author was not as North American terms was used such as railway cars instead of carriages, fire trucks instead of engines, fall instead of autumn and the best of all Nelsons tower instead of column. Also, I have never read a book with over 100 paragraphs. Really enjoyed the book and learnt more about the Blitz.