May 1940: Lord Halifax “sounded like a nervous solicitor reading from a half-thought-out brief….When Churchill spoke of fighting on alone, the mantle of history—Agincourt, Waterloo, Trafalgar, the Armada—sang through his sentences.”
Here is a well-written and organized review of mainly well-known events, retold with dramatic prose and crisp analysis. It’s an ideal book for young people unfamiliar with the scope of Churchill’s achievement in 1940, and, indeed, for anyone who wants a good account of the events that saved Western civilization.
Halfway through the book the perils mount and Churchill becomes prime minister: Dunkirk is evacuated, France falls, and the tempo intensifies in the rapid march of events. By the end of May 1940, the war cabinet faces a bitter choice: fight on, with no obvious route to victory, or accept an armistice or cease-fire, on whatever terms Hitler (who is anxious to make them) might offer. Kelly describes the stark options, and their leading advocates: Halifax the pragmatist, Churchill the “maximalist and romantic.”
Churchill, Kelly writes, “opened up his imagination and invited the House and the country in,” telling Britons they were defending not just their country, but the world cause: “Churchill’s particular genius as a leader lay in his ability to make people feel they had to rise to his level, which had the effect of making them a little bigger and braver than they were….”
Kelly’s fine writing and feel for those perilous times, puts us in mind of Larry Arnn’s lectures in the Hillsdale College online Churchill course. Some things, Dr. Arnn said, are indeed worth the ultimate effort. “Some things you may have to die for.”
We need to keep that thought in mind today.
Read complete review on the Hillsdale Churchill Project site.