I was a young schoolboy during Churchill's last administration. His speeches and deeds resonated through my childhood, and the popular culture rang with praise and admiration for him. As I grew up I began to realise that he had not always been the figure of national reverence that he became in later life, but up until his death he remained a largely unquestioned icon of his times.
Roy Jenkins, although a political opponent, and coming from a later generation, nevertheless gives a well-researched and sympathetic account of his life and career. There is sometimes, for me at any rate, a little too much information on political and social facts of the time, but to those who are younger and less well acquainted with the politics and society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries I'm sure this background would be helpful.
Robert Whitfield's reading, for me, is nigh on perfect. His accent and tone is perhaps to a modern listener a little antique, but it blends well in my ear with the era and habits of the people who are being described. It is always difficult to strike a balance between doing an imitation of Churchill's unique delivery and diction, which can all too easily become a sort of comic parody, and simply reading his words in a normal speaking voice. I think here the balance has been well struck. It is clear when Churchill is being quoted, the words are spoken in a voice approaching his accent and intonation, but the style does not approach mimicry.
All in all, this is an informative, complete, and entertaining account of a long and eventful life of a man who was arguably the greatest British statesman of his generation, if not his century. A life, moreover, which affected British, European and World history to the profound benefit of succeeding generations.
Just as a good diplomat should be, the author delivers his observations, anecdotes and facts in a well modulated, perfectly enunciated voice. Persuasive and engaging, he tells us the tale of his recruitment into and passage through the Foreign and Commonwealth cadre of ambassadorial staff with wit and charm. Where he has failed to agree with his political masters or foreign hosts he informs us both suavely and directly. He leaves any criticism to emerge from our own assessments of the scenes and actions he describes.
Top class. In every sense. I only wish the book had been longer, but I suppose there is only so much that can happen in even the most varied diplomatic career; and for a true diplomat there is only a fraction that can be told.
To one who watched the first series of Zoo Quest as a boy (I even had the Zoo Quest board game for Christmas) this delivers just what you might hope for and expect. The soothing voice of the author tells his story in the witty and self-deprecatory style that so many of us have grown up with. His charm and modesty shine through the text, burnished by his delivery; it all slips down like a high quality ice cream sundae consumed in a swanky restaurant overlooking one of the great views of the world.
If you like his television programmes then you'll love the book. If you don't, then you probably won't. I am a complete David Attenborough groupy, and so I love it. There are tales of exotic animal collecting expeditions, politicking in the high echelons of the BBC, and accounts of his companions in both programme making and management.
Terrific stuff for me and my fellow groupies.