Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Book of the Month
By Paul Johnson
Unlike so many biographies of notable people, Churchill by Paul Johnson is quite short. I have seen and read many tomes about historical figures, but I sometimes feel that they are more exhausting than exhaustive. This is not the case here, as Johnson keeps the narrative light and interesting throughout. It would be very easy to let a book about Churchill get too long and detailed because of all his many achievements, but Johnson hits all the high points and peppers in some fun anecdotes as well, while keeping things concise.
If you are looking for a very fair and even somewhat unflattering portrait of Churchill, this may not provide the best example. Johnson is very reverential in his tone, and tries hard to explain away some of the man's faults as he takes the reader through Sir Winston's life. Failures in World War I and the inter-war years are glossed over a bit, but despite this, the book does bring together some of the best stories in the Churchill legend.
I am a fan of Churchill, like Johnson, and I am aware of the shortcomings in his character, like Johnson. I also, like Johnson, choose not to dwell on the negatives too much, like Churchill's thoughts on India and Gandhi, for example. There are so many good things to be admired about him and such compelling tales in this book that the reader is instantly drawn in by one of the world's most noteworthy men. I am not at all taken in by the somewhat rosy picture painted in this book, however, but I recognize that some of the 20th Century's greatest accomplishments can be attributed to Winston Churchill. For historians who have a discerning eye and a desire to be entertained by truly engrossing stories, this book will not disappoint.