Churchill by Paul Johnson

Winston Churchill is surely one of the greatest men of the twentieth century.  In his lifetime he wrote and published nearly 10 million words and, most likely, as many words have been written about him.  So why another biography on the famous politician, author, orator and military tactician?  Primarily because an excellent and yet short account of Churchill’s life was needed.  In 168 well-written and enjoyable pages Paul Johnson has captured the essence of Churchill’s life.  Most of us do not have the time or interest to read thousands of pages on one man’s life, but a volume of this size is not only readable but gives all the details necessary to grasp who Churchill was and what made him the man who will be remembered throughout the ages.  Johnson does not paint Churchill without flaws, as he clearly shows the weaknesses of the man.  But his admiration for Churchill glows on every page.  If you like biography you will love Churchill.  Johnson sums up Churchill’s life in this manner:

In his ninety years, Churchill had spent fifty-five years as a member of Parliament, thirty-one years as a minister, and nearly nine years as prime minister.  He had been present at or fought in fifteen battles, and had been awarded fourteen campaign medals, some with multiple clasps.  He had been a prominent figure in the First World War, and a dominant one in the Second.  He had published nearly 10 million words, more than most professional writers in their lifetime, and painted over five hundred canvases, more than most professional painters.  He had reconstructed a stately home and created a splendid garden with its three lakes, which he had caused to be dug himself.  He had built a cottage and a garden wall.  He was a fellow of the Royal Society, an Elder Brother of Trinity House, a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a Royal Academician, a university chancellor, a Nobel Prizeman, a Knight of the Garter, a Companion of Honour, and a member of the Order of Merit.  Scores of towns made him an honorary citizen, dozens of universities awarded him honorary degrees, and thirteen countries gave him medals.  He hunted big game and won a score of races.  How many bottles of champagne he consumed is not recorded, but it may be close to twenty thousand.  He had a large and much-loved family, and countless friends (p. 161).