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Posted August 9, 2013
This was an interesting read but not as great as it could have been. Knowing a good deal about the period, it was historically accurate in many regards. However, the Soviet and German characters were incredibly one-dimensional power-hungry sadists. Whatever one thinks of the real crimes of people like Beria, many ordinary Soviet and German soldiers had motivations that had less to do with ideology and more with staying alive.
Also, there is a tremendous amount of crass sexual talk throughout the book, including graphic references to rape, masturbation and even in the scenes meant to describe a mutually satisfying love making session - a very clinical description of the act rather than a romantic one.
In fact the book's weakest point is its insistence on filling too many pages with the utterly contemptible Franz Mueller (Frank Miller). At first one is not sure whether they want us to see him as a redeemed character on which they quickly pull the plug or as an inhuman beast, incapable of understanding human love. Whatever the case, the authors fail miserably in this regard and should have either written his character with more depth or left him out altogether except as a footnote.
Where the book does have its greatest strength is when it is dealing with Churchill. The man himself comes through with great ease and seeing Churchill through the eyes of the secretary who accompanied him makes it a joy to read these scenes. I wish the authors had given more of the stage to Thompson, the unflappable and brave gentleman who was Churchill's personal guard. His character in the book is thoroughly enjoyable. The complicated figure of Donald Maclean is an additional character on which they should have spent more time.
Also fascinating is the time period on which the story is based. It is in the aftermath of the Second World War where men of Churchill's stature are are entering unfamiliar territory. His almost regal, statesman-like presence shines that much brighter when contrasted with Truman's crass swearing, poker playing and general demeanor on their shared train journey. One feels that something is lost forever when it is acknowledged that Truman and those like him are the office holders and Churchill has just been unceremoniously dumped as leader - despite returning not long after for a final stint as Prime Minister.
I would recommend the book for those interested in Churchill and the time period, despite its faults. Finding oneself a fly on the wall where Churchill and Thompson are conversing as the great statesman enters his twilight is reason enough to give this book a read.
Disclaimer - I received an Advance Review Copy of this book from the publisher through Goodreads First Reads.
Posted July 21, 2013
This book transports you into the post war era just before the Cold War. It is difficult to separate the fiction from fact, as this is very well written to the point you believe it is a historical novel. Churchill our wartime hero is targeted by an assassin during a visit to the USA, accompanied by Truman the current president, you are presented with many options on how the attempt will play out. The author explores Churchill's long time relationship with his bodyguard to prove that even in politics simple and trusting friendship are possible. Excellent book and is recommended as a must read.