cover image Churchill’s Shadow: The Life and Afterlife of Winston Churchill

Churchill’s Shadow: The Life and Afterlife of Winston Churchill

Geoffrey Wheatcroft. Norton, $40 (656p) ISBN 978-1-324-00276-5

Journalist Wheatcroft (The Strange Death of Tory England) delivers a fresh take on Winston Churchill’s life and legacy in this invigorating biography. Claiming that Churchill was both “the saviour of his country” and “far too often in the wrong,” Wheatcroft succeeds in separating the myth (much of it created by Churchill himself in his histories and memoirs of WWII) from the reality. The most damaging and durable myths, according to Wheatcroft, include a misreading of prime minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement with Nazi Germany that has been used to justify disastrous wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, and a misleading British national pride that “sustain[s] the country with beguiling illusions of greatness, of standing unique and alone, while preventing the British from coming to terms with their true place in the world.” Wheatcroft doesn’t shy away from Churchill’s racism and imperialism, which “were already retrograde by the standards of his age,” or his support for the merciless bombing offensive against German cities and civilians that culminated in the destruction of Dresden, while expressing sincere admiration for his eloquence and ability to inspire strength and action. The result is an exhilarating reassessment that will appeal to Churchill buffs and newcomers alike. (Oct.)