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Between his rise and his fall, Churchill built a modern navy, experimented with radical social reforms, survived various threats on his life, made powerful enemies and a few good friends, annoyed and delighted two British monarchs, became a husband and father, took the measure of the German military machine, authorized executions of notorious murderers, and faced deadly artillery barrages on the Western front. Along the way, he learned how to outwit more experienced rivals, how to overcome bureaucratic obstacles, how to question the assumptions of his upbringing, how to be patient and avoid overconfidence, and how to value loyalty.
He also learned how to fall in love. Shelden gives us a portrait of Churchill as the dashing young suitor who pursued three great beauties of British society with his witty repartee, political f lair, and poetic letters. In one of many never-before-told episodes, Churchill is seen racing to a Scottish castle to prepare the heartbroken daughter of the prime minister for his impending marriage.
This was a time of high drama, intrigue, personal courage, and grave miscalculations. But as Shelden shows in this fresh and revealing biography, Churchill's later success was predicated on his struggles to redeem the promise of his youth.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-11-19
- Reviewer: Staff
This portrait of the pol as a young man tracks Churchill’s coming-of-age from 1901, when he first entered Parliament, to 1915, when he resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty following the Gallipoli fiasco, with much personal material included. Shelden, a journalist, professor, and author of biographies of Mark Twain and George Orwell (the latter, Orwell, was a finalist for the Pulitzer), reveals a Churchill who early on was well known as a Boer War hero; an adventurer in India, Cuba, and Egypt; a prolific writer; and a member of Parliament. For someone of aristocratic background, Churchill held relatively progressive views, favoring women’s suffrage and helping push for unemployment insurance. His personal charm and wit attracted numerous women, including the American actress Ethel Barrymore and Prime Minister Asquith’s daughter, Violet, before he married Clementine Hozier at age 32. Shelden hews close to the man, his family and friends, and his policies; as a result, national and international concerns (as when he refers to Germany’s pre-1914 “continuing preparation for war” without offering further explanation) are given short shrift. Despite this and occasional trivial digressions, the book is a fluid and informative examination of the early career of one of modern Britain’s most outstanding political leaders. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Mar. 5)