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There are masses of books about the Blitz, Churchill and WWII in general but not like this one. The main focus here is the first year of Churchill's leadership, jumps quickly to The American's entering the war and then ends. What makes this book so different is that Larson is a master storyteller of non fiction and makes it read like a thriller. He says in the acknowledgements that he's always been fascinated by how people like Churchill managed to balance desperate ad dire affairs  of state  with the normal problems of daily life so much of the book is taken up with the sort of thing that normally gets left out of serious history books such as his private secretary's unrequited love affair, the 17 year old Mary Churchill's flirtations with RAF officers and her later engagement, much disapproved of by her parents. Some readers might find all this trival, I love it, I always want to know about the people and it makes the reality of what it must have been like living then so very real: you did live for the moment and you understand why reactuions that would seem awful in hindsight - being irritated by the delay caused a bomb crater rather than worrying about who might have been hurt became natural.

 

Larson splits the narrative between England and Germany on day by day basis and doesn't foreshadow anything. We might know what happened in the big picture, but Goring, Churchill, Hitler, Max Beaverbrook et all didn't. The reader lives in their present as events unfold, and sometimes gets taken as much by surprise as the main protagonists were. I did learn some new facts about the war but the main thing I've really taken from the book is a sense of what it must have been like to live then. An excellent read.

 

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I read this book this summer and raved about it.  I have loaned it to 3 people, about to be 4.  One of the (only) advantages of buying a books rather than reading on my Kindle.

 

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