Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life

Gretchen Rubin, Author
Gretchen Rubin, Author Ballantine Books $22.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-345-45047-0
Reviewed on: 06/01/2003
Release date: 06/01/2003
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 978-1-58836-384-8
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-8129-7144-6
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-07717-1
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Eschewing the linear, chronological approach of most biographies, Yale Law School professor and Churchill devotee Rubin (Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide) has written 40 brief chapters looking at the British prime minister from multiple angles: Churchill as son, father, husband, orator, painter, historian, enemy of Hitler and many other roles. Rubin's unique approach works surprisingly well, bringing fresh insight to an exhaustively covered subject. Writing on Churchill as son, for instance, Rubin hammers home the point that he spent his life trying to measure up to an imagined, idealized father. Churchill's real father, Rubin makes clear, thought his son was destined for mediocrity and told him so. When she discusses Churchill's famous gifts as an orator, Rubin contends that his speeches were sometimes overblown, overly heroic and often ignored. She agrees with David Cannadine (In Churchill's Shadow) that Churchill's oratory was most effective when matched by times that required heroic action, such as the spring and summer of 1940. In a chapter devoted to Churchill's legendary drinking, Rubin provocatively presents arguments from both sides: that the drinking was harmless and that it was a major problem. In the end, Rubin sees""her"" Churchill as a tragic hero. His life's goal was to preserve the British Empire, yet his greatest achievement, the defeat of Hitler, hastened the empire's end. While Rubin's account clearly isn't comprehensive and belabors a rather obvious point--that different, even opposing, perspectives on one life are possible--it is an excellent introduction to one of the most written about men in history. Photos.
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