My in-laws gave me the four-book series of historical novels by Michael Dobbs about Winston Churchill, set against the backdrop of World War II. I enjoyed them immensely. They are very enjoyable reads while also informative and insightful of Dobbs’s subjective views of the major players of the era. –T.D.
I certainly agree. I enthusiastically endorsed these novels in Finest Hour: Winston’s War (FH 116), Never Surrender (FH 122), Churchill’s Hour (FH 126) and Churchill’s Triumph (FH 131). You may be interested in Mr Dobbs’s contribution to our 40th anniversary issue last autumn:
A novelist’s eye looks to the inner man: not simply what he achieves but who he is, how true and how strong his heart beats. In my eye, Winston Churchill had one of the most extraordinary hearts of all time. It beat as resolutely as a drum, and to its timbre the world marched from the jaws of Hell. Yet that same huge heart also overcame obstacles in his private affairs that would have crippled most ordinary mortals. He was great not because he got everything right (hah!) or because he was always pleasant and polite (he wasn’t), but because he managed to save our world even while battling with his own private demons.
Is he relevant in today’s world? Of course he is. Open your newspaper and you will be bombarded with messages about a World Crisis, a Gathering Storm, nations torn between the appeals of meeting jaw to jaw as an alternate to war. Some of the issues have changed, of course, but the fundamental inspiration of Winston Churchill’s life was that we make our own world, that the tide of history isn’t driven by irresistible Marxist-Fascist tides and irreversible social trends but by the passions of men and women. What we do, you and I, and those we elect, makes a difference. In the end, it’s up to us, and how big we find our hearts to be.
Yet it’s the nature of the man that appeals to me most. When I talk to school children about that strange beast Winston Churchill, I show him not just as an overly-round sixty-something with little hair and a fat cigar who did extraordinary things, but also as a tormented and at times frightened child who was subjected to abuse at school and—let’s be frank—a fair dose of parental neglect at home. Yet still he made it through. If Winston were in a classroom today he would be sitting in the back row, a child with few friends, with a troubled home life, with learning difficulties, with school reports that summed him up as all but worthless, who couldn’t even make it to university. And yet….
To watch the fascination of young eyes suddenly alert, identifying with our Old Man, realising that perhaps they, too, might find some way to overcome their own personal challenges, never fails to be a transcending moment.
What would his message be today? I suspect it would not be framed in terms of Mission Accomplished, but neither would it be Mission Impossible. Wherever he is remembered, the memory brings hope and a reminder that nothing in the course of human affairs is beyond our reach. He remains an inspiration to schoolchildren and statesmen, and to the rest of us who fall somewhere in between.