Episode 21: The Splendid and the Vile

Download Episode 21

In This Episode

The Book Evangelists discuss The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson

Morning Chatter

The Splendid and the Vile

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally–and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports–some released only recently–Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments. 

Discussion Questions

  • How real is real, even when exhaustively researched?
  • Does this make you want to keep a detailed diary? How will personal text messages or emails be treated in future memoirs and historical record?
  • What can we learn as writers from this book? How does this story turn reality into an exciting/interesting narrative that follows the “rules” of fiction?
  • Why did it take each of us so long to read this book?

Bonus Book in Progress

We are both currently reading The Power of Ritual: How to Create Meaning and Connection in Everything You Do by Casper ter Kuile and bringing some of the sacred reading suggestions into our discussion here.

  • Reading about other people improves our ability to understand and cooperate with others and ultimately to understand ourselves
  • Could this book, The Splendid and the Vile, or the original speeches by Churchill, or some of the letters or diaries– be something for a sacred reading/discussion? What would we each want to choose as a sacred text?

Coming Up

Next episode: Marian and Lissa will read and discuss two fantasy books written for youth, which Marian read in her youth and Lissa has not read. Yet.

  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
  • The Book of Three The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1 by Lloyd Alexander

Pssst! Want to See Something Cool?

Marian’s first book A Little Touch of Magic is now available! There are fairies. Someone has a tail. Must be a fairytale. Buy it wherever books are sold, especially for the middle grade fantasy readers in your life.

Our Show Notes include mentions and recommendations, all linked for your convenience. What else would you like to see here? 

Music Credit: The music used during transitions in our podcast is adapted from: Jazzy Sax, Guitar, and Organ at the club by Admiral Bob (c) copyright 2018 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/admiralbob77/58382 Ft: geoffpeters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s