I did not want embarrassing allegations to surface in the media. So I admit that over thirty years ago, I acquired a nice six volume set of Winston Churchill’s The Second World War. But I did not read it. Later, about eight years ago, I picked up a complete set of the BOMC version of his books, just to have an extra set for one of the kids. I still had not read Churchill’s history. Last year, I bought the Folio Society version from a friend and book seller. If I could give a press conference right now, I would tearfully confess that only in recent months have I tackled this set.
I have now read volume one–The Gathering Storm.
Yes, I did read a rather lengthy book titled Memoirs of the Second World War, which is an abridgement of Churchill’s six volumes. Yes, I have read a dozen or more biographies of Churchill along with scores of books on World War II where Churchill is a leading figure. And I have read his four volume History of the English Speaking Peoples.
None of that matters because I have not yet read the six volume set, which is the main work that netted Churchill the Nobel Prize for Literature. It is the only account of the war by one of the top leaders in the war. (Hitler, Mussolini, and FDR were all dead. Stalin would have had himself shot if he had written an account of the war because he would not have given proper acclaim to his own role.)
My plan is to read the next five volumes of the set over the next year or two. This set is on my famous Wall of Shame. By that I mean that it is a title (or six titles) that should have been read years ago, but were not. I am disgraced by not having long since read the books.
Take note, if there is anyone, anywhere who has not read Churchill: He spends the bulk of the first volume dealing with diplomatic, military, and political events leading up to the outbreak of the war. Churchill’s enduring fame largely rests on his ability to have foreseen and forewarned about the dangers of Naziism in the 1930s (when it was unpopular) and then to do the same about the dangers of Communism in his Iron Curtain speech.
The book is full of detailed speeches and communications between political leaders inside of Britain and political leaders in other countries. The fact that Churchill survived the political squabbles and was invited back into the British cabinet is itself quite a story. The fact that he and not Lord Halifax was chosen to be the Prime Minister is a blessing to the world. The fact that he was a busy-body (in good and bad senses of the word), that he was a military planner and strategist (for better or worse), that he was talker (to the delight and irritation of those around him), that he was confident and optimistic (in spite of battling depression on a personal level)–all this and more comes out in this first volume.
Now, I must make plans to begin reading Their Finest Hour.