Reader reviews for Their Finest Hour: The Second World War, Volume 2

This is the story of Great Britain's desperate stand against, all alone, the Nazi power. Fortunately, according to Winston Churchill, they picked their very best man to be their leader -- himself. Actually, by the historical result, they did pick the best man. This is how he dealt with the exigencies of war, his relationships with the united States, with Vichy France, with innumerable problems,situations and difficulties.
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This volume takes us from roughly May of 1940, through December of 1940. Churchill records the ups and downs, the victories and defeats, the known and the unknown fears of that time. It is the inside scoop, so to speak. A way to look inside the workings of his brain. I found it fascinating reading. Some of the numerous memos to various staff members can grow tedious, but his narrative is living and vibrant. I felt myself there in the midst of it all. His humor is so dry you might miss it, but don't, it is really fine. I'm sure there is a book of his public speeches out there, and I intend to have it someday. They are rousing and inspiring and far-sighted. I find the speech he gave at Neville Chamberlain's funeral full of wisdom and grace. "The only guide to a man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude and sincerity of his actions." That is just a tidbit of the speech.
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The second of six volumes, Their Finest Hour takes us through the momentous year of 1940 beginning with the start of the Battle of France and the ascension of Winston Churchill to the Prime Ministership. In many places this volume is more gripping than the one that precedes it - the Norwegian campaign, which I found was discussed at too far a length, is almost immediately forgotten about as the real show in France takes center stage. Churchill describes the Battle for France in an excellent manner, rightly describing it as the preventable high tragedy that it was. Much to my surprise, and happiness, the descriptions of the interplay between the British and French governments hold center stage through most of this first half of the book. Churchill shows with remarkable ease the sense of hopelessness that rapidly came to dominate French thinking. Their principal military leaders - Gamelin and Weygand - are either incompetent or unable to react in step with events (in one remarkable scene Churchill describes meeting with the French government in a chateau with only one phone, located in the restroom of all places). The French political leadership is almost as bad, but its strongest figures such as Paul Reynaud are simply not up to the task.Following the Battle of France the rest of the book looks at the Battle of Britain, Home Defenses in Britain, negotiations to keep the French fleet out of German hands, relations with Vichy France and Nationalist Spain, Lend-Lease, and the situation in the Middle East. On a large degree these lack the tempo that the first half of the book has, and took me much longer to get through until the pace improved dramatically near the end with the British victory over Italian forces on the Egyptian border. Still, this second volume is just as good as the first - their is still a large number of high quality maps included and almost a hundred pages of appendixes of which a large portion are Winston Churchill's private correspondence. My only complaint is the amount of run on shown by some of the correspondence put directly into the text, and the lack of responses to those letters - especially from figures such as Franklin Roosevelt.
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Second volume of Churchill's WWII memiors deals with the fall of France and Britian's 15 months of lonely battle against Hitler. Once again very readable and excellent use of primary source material. Was everyone really so united?
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