His Finest Hour –
A Brief Life of Winston Churchill
By Christopher Catherwood
Constable & Robinson – £8.99
What I find most appealing about His Finest Hour – A Brief Life of Winston Churchill, is its altogether lucid sense of prevailing balance. After all, whenever we think of Churchill, we think of greatness and grandiosity, cigars and the trajectory of his elongated victory sign – which, even in current day Libya, is still being used amid a robust modicum of tragic, televised foreboding.
So, ‘tis without question that the gargantuan figure of Britain’s most popular Prime Minister, remains very much in evidence; even if only by way of current and exasperated default. Whether it’s the wayward breach of countless young and ultimately uninformed Hamas hedonists clamouring for V-sign recognition, advertising for car insurance, or the seemingly untoward twisted gospel of numerous Right-Wing parties (the length and unfortunate breadth of the British Isles). Indeed, forgive them Dear Winston, for they not what (hatred) they (truly) espouse…
With the above in mind, it’s more than hopelessly appealing to be literarily hood-winked by one historical accolade after another. Thus conjuring an overwhelming portrayal of misfit magnificence. But not so in this deft little number, which admittedly merely skims the surface, although nevertheless tells it as it is: ‘’He really was a larger than life figure, far more so than the comparatively minor figures we see in politics today. Yet he could also be a stubborn reactionary, a loose cannon, an adventurer, whose mistakes probably ended up costing millions of lives.’’
Throughout His Finest Hour, Christopher Catherwood invites us to learn and to dig deeper. As only by doing so, will we essentially garner a true understanding of both sides of the Churchillian myth: ‘’Thankfully, historians are now trying to look at Churchill ‘warts and all’ […], with both his manifold strengths and regrettable weaknesses, so that we can finally see him as a human being, not as an object of devotion to be worshipped uncritically […]. Truth surely lies in a balance of good points with bad, with some, like Churchill, having bad points as the flip side to the coin of the good points that made him so justly famous.
So if this book has an agenda, that is it: to find a balanced way of looking at Winston Churchill, his strengths and weaknesses, his triumphs and disasters, his insights and his blind spots, and then to arrive at a considered view.’’
I’m yet to read either Martin Gilbert or Roy Jenkins renowned and in-depth writings on Churchill, both of which come highly recommended. That said, for an all round, insightful introduction, these 230 pages (plus Bibliography and Sources) do truly bestow a succinct and overtly qualified account of an amazing career in politics.