The Last Lion, by William Manchester

I’ve been really enjoying this book.  This is Doris Kearns Goodwin-style biography.  It is detailed, written like a novel, and hard to put down.  Maybe even more than Goodwin, Manchester used this three-volume biography as a way to show an epic arc of history, from the apex of British Empire and its wane and climax in the Second World War, all with Churchill as the main character.  The primary theme of the book is of Churchill as a carryover of Victorian virtues: the sense of duty, honor, hard work, and Imperialism.  All those had started to seem less relevant as the twentieth century began, but suddenly because immensely valuable at the outbreak of World War II.  I’m about midway through the first volume, at the buildup to the first world war and in the middle of Churchill’s initial ascendance to political power.  It is interesting to see the combination of societal factors that supported him — first and foremost, being a member of the aristocratic elite, and having the connections of his mother Jennie (who sounds to have been the mistress of at least a dozen various powerful men including George V when he was Prince of Wales), and being able to follow in the footsteps of his father into Parliament.  On the other hand, there was a lot of internal dynamics that also made him extraordinary.  There was his ability with written language:  by the time he was an adult and his father died, his parents were close to broke, and Churchill may not have been able to sit in Parliament at all if he hadn’t made a small fortune writing.  There was his comfort with adversity, with his own ambition, and with conflict and dissent.