“The Splendid and the Vile” is an amazing history of Great Britain’s preparation for, and endurance of, Germany’s air assault on their country, told by the diaries of the people who lived through it.
Based on the diaries and letters of his family, and people serving Prime Minister Winston Churchill, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson, is an amazing history of Great Britain’s preparation for, and endurance of, Germany’s air assault on their country. It begins during the weeks leading up to the fall of France. Churchill’s family problems and money issues are woven into the fabric of this telling. The details will hit home for contemporary readers. The diaries of Churchill’s daughter Mary, and one of Churchill’s secretaries John Colville, reveal two young people dealing with matters of the heart along with the horrors of war. Two years before the British entered war the government recruited volunteers to be Mass-Observation diarists. The diarists recorded the minutia of their daily lives and feelings, which were then studied by sociologists. Larson uses the words from the diaries to add depth and humanity to this incredible history. His book gives readers something to be very thankful for in November.
Maureen Millea Smith is a librarian at the Edina Library and a Minnesota Book Award-winning novelist.