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.
The book is as detailed and thorough as one could hope for. It builds and builds, creeping towards the war you know is going to break out. Oren wonderfully breaks down the conversations, contexts, and collective strain that preceded the conflict. By the time the first shots are fired you have come to know the protagonists well, and can feel the exhaustion they must have felt after months of build-up and stress. The war itself is told well, highlighting the challenges of individual battles in enough detail to give you a sense of their danger and difficulty, but not too much as to overwhelm you with minute orders and commands.
Oren takes on the task of this assignment with as much neutrality and objectivity as is probably possible, but you end up getting a better feel for the Israeli side. This is not to say he takes a pro-Israel stance, just that the detail of the leadership decisions of the Israeli leadership is more than the other countries. He does an excellent job addressing the interests of each country, including the Russians and USA along with the entire Middle-East contingent, so this is not really a fault of the book, just an observation on my part. The other problem with the book, and I suspect this is related to the audio format, is that you really could benefit from a map. Yes, it is easy enough to envisage where Egypt and Israel sit on a map, but when he starts discussing different towns and passes, it would have been nice to have a map.
Overall, a wonderfully written and researched book that brings to light the hectic pace of negotiations and international diplomacy that tends to get overlooked when discussing this war.