Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Book Review: The Last Lion: Visions of Glory

by David Blake, Fiction Department, Central Library

The Last Lion: Visions of Glory (1874-1932)
William Manchester

Counted by Time magazine as one of the one hundred great books of the twentieth century, The Last Lion: Visions of Glory is perhaps the most surprising book in William Manchester’s three-volume biography on Winston Churchill. Churchill’s youth and early political career are often overshadowed by his years of greatness before, during, and after World War II, but Churchill was always interesting. He had to be. He lived like a pasha and wanted to direct the fate of the British Empire, and, although he came from one of the most prominent, aristocratic families in England, he had no money. He became a prolific writer, one of the most prolific and best-paid writers of his time. He was world-famous long before he became the prime minister we revere.

And Churchill was a “hottie.” Red-headed and trim in tight fitting uniforms, young Winston made full use of the possibilities for adventure in Queen Victoria’s grand empire, as an officer and foreign correspondent. Elected as a war hero, Churchill quickly rose into leadership, and, again surprisingly, worked with Lloyd George to break the power of the aristocracy and build the foundations of the British welfare state.

Young Winston had been a lonely, unpopular, and difficult boy, unsuccessful in school and sport, near the bottom in every school he attended. The Last Lion: Visions of Glory is largely the story of how a boy who disappointed everyone became the man who saved us all.

Many readers might be returning to The Last Lion: Visions of Glory decades after first reading it and the subsequent The Last Lion: Alone, which covers Hitler’s rise and Churchill’s time in the political wilderness in the 1930s. Some will be glad to learn that the final volume of Manchester’s trilogy was published posthumously in 2012. New readers will be happy to learn that Churchill and Manchester are very good company.

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