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Notebook and Pen

 Favorite Books

The Last Lion


William Manchester and Paul Reid


“The Last Lion” is the biography of Winston Spencer Churchill.  It is a three volume set, so make sure you get all three, otherwise you will only have portions of Churchill’s life.  The first two sets were written my William Manchester, in which he describes Churchill’s childhood, mostly neglected by his mother, Jennie an American socialite, and father, Lord Randolph Churchill.  Not a particularly bright child, he struggled with those elements of education offered during the late 19th century, as well as with discipline.  In his late teens he joined the Hussars and became an army equestrian.  In doing so he gained confidence that was missing.  As a young military officer he was dispatched to India, Cuba, and the African continent finding opportunities in the face of conflict to differentiate himself as a war hero.  Despite the remonstrations of senior officers, Churchill also moonlighted as a war correspondent, thus launching a lifetime of prolific writing.  After his years as a military officer, Churchill graduated to Parliamentary politics and followed in his father’s footsteps as an MP, Member of Parliament.  Something he would do for the rest of his life.  Throughout, Manchester generously sprinkles Churchillian quotes which provide the reader with a deep essence of who Churchill was as a man, and I might add as a humorist. 

Most remember Churchill as the Prime Minister of England, but it should not be forgotten that before he succeeded to such a lofty position, his life was characterized by self-doubt, and recriminations by his fellow MP’s.  He found himself on the wrong side of the aisle in many debates, some which lasted well over a decade.  Placing him as an anathema in the eyes of many.  Friends and allies abandoned him on a regular basis to his own opinions.  Somewhere, however, he found a strength which allowed him to forage forth as an outsider, and as the ostracized.

The last volume of “The Last Lion” was co-written by William Manchester and Paul Reid.  William Manchester, unfortunately, became quite ill and before he could complete his works sadly passed away, leaving his notes and the job of completing Churchill’s biography in the hands of Paul Reid.  There are a few stylistic differences between the two authors, but is honestly barely noticeable.  Reid does an extremely good job at pinch hitting for the originator of this grand work of history.

Somewhere after World War I, during the early to late 1930’s Churchill stood alone as the one voice who was the bellwether warning his fellow MP’s, and his fellow Britain’s, of the impending threat that Nazi Germany posed.  Most, if not all, refused to see or listen to his warnings and chose to take a position of non-intervention as the ugly events unfolded across Europe.  That is until they could no longer ignore the aggression which became patently obvious, even to the socialists and liberals. 

Some would say that Winston Churchill was born for one purpose…to defend the free world from fascism.  I, for one, believe this to be true.  There were very few men who could face the doubts and criticisms waged against him and still rise to the occasion, and recruit both the United States and Russia to form an alliance.  To stand tall in the face of early defeats.  To rally the confidence of the British subjects and other European nations, and to bow to those late arrivals who by virtue of strength and ego took the reigns from Churchill’s hands at the threshold of victory. 

Churchill was quoted as saying, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”  What wisdom!  I would humbly offer that world owes much to Churchill’s defiant leadership, which, had he not been where he was, when he was, could have ended catastrophically.

At the end of the last volume some few pages are dedicated to this great man as he slowly slipped from the stage of world politics.  He was born in 1874 during Queen Victoria’s rule and died in 1965 during the British invasion by the Beatles.  One can’t help to become familiar, to believe one knows the character of Winston Churchill intimately, after reading “The Last Lion.”  And I am not ashamed to say when it was time for my friend in this trilogy to die, I grieved and wept. 


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