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Winston's War

This excellent biography turns a laser-like focus on five years in the life of Winston Churchill.

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Winston’s War:
Churchill, 1940-1945
Knopf Doubleday
576 pp., $35

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Winston Churchill’s singular accomplishment was his heroic leadership of Britain during the darkest days of World War II. More than 50 years after his death, the stories and legends that surround him make it hard for historians, let alone the public, to get a clear, unvarnished picture of this towering figure.

Sir Max Hastings, the author of several exceptionally well-received books about World War II in Europe and Asia, has turned his thoughtful eye to Churchill’s record as a wartime leader. Winston’s War covers just five years, from the Battle of France in May 1940 when he became prime minister to the general election in July 1945 that ended his tenure. What Churchill did before and after are barely mentioned.

This laserlike focus on a relatively short period of Churchill’s long and eventful life allows Hastings to examine his subject in great detail. The picture that emerges is both very flattering and highly critical. Hastings clearly admires Churchill and begins the book by proclaiming that he “was the greatest Englishman and one of the greatest human beings of the twentieth century, indeed of all time.” He repeatedly applauds Churchill’s bulldoglike determination, courage, and remarkable ability to inspire his countrymen and to move the world.

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