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Winston's War

Winston's War

3.7 291
by Michael Dobbs, Tim Pigott-Smith (Read by)

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An intriguing tale of espionage and treason . . . this is a work to enthrall." - Daily Mail

Michael Dobbs' thrilling novel about the dawn of World War II, and Winston Churchill's rise to power.

It is the dawn of World War II, and Neville Chamberlain believes he has bought "peace for our time" from Adolph Hitler, who


An intriguing tale of espionage and treason . . . this is a work to enthrall." - Daily Mail

Michael Dobbs' thrilling novel about the dawn of World War II, and Winston Churchill's rise to power.

It is the dawn of World War II, and Neville Chamberlain believes he has bought "peace for our time" from Adolph Hitler, who has just seized Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland. The English are alarmed by the huge German army, while the soldiers that would defend London don't even have steel helmets. For many, compromise and appeasement seem to be England's best defense.

But there are a few leaders who don't agree. Among them is Winston Churchill, who understands that the relentless march of fascism will be democracy's death knell. In October 1938, Churchill pleads his case in the press to the BBC's Guy Burgess. One of these two will become the most revered man of his time, and the other will be known as the greatest of traitors.

This stunning novel brings to life the surprising political intrigues that set the stage for World War II, and brings alive the passionate, grumpy, whiskey-drinking Winston Churchill, as he inspires his fellow countrymen to take on the world's mightiest army.

Includes bonus reading group guide


"An intriguing tale of espionage and treason... this is a work to enthrall."
Daily Mail

"An author who can bring historical happenings so vitally back to life and made all the more impressive by being historically accurate in every respect."
Times of London

"A fascinating tale of conspiracy, blackmail, and treachery."
Irish Independent


"Dobbs takes us so far inside the mind of Winston Churchill that we feel as though we actually are him."

"Dobbs infuses dramatic tension, inventive plots, and heady pacing in the narration of a British icon's noblest hours."
Publishers Weekly

"Dobbs has done a brilliant job in evoking the drama and despair of Britain hovering on the edge of the abyss."
Sunday Express

Product Details

Ulverscroft Large Print Books, Ltd.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.72(w) x 5.51(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter One

London, Saturday, October 1, 1938.

A story has to start somewhere. Ours begins on a disgruntled day in autumn, in the unsuspecting year of 1938.

It could have begun a generation earlier, of course-in 1914, as the British Expeditionary Force whistled its way off to war with the Kaiser. Or 1918, when the few that were left dragged themselves back. There again, we could have started a century earlier when the hooves of the Emperor Napoleon's cavalry turned the continent of Europe into a muddy dying place that stretched from the tumbling rivers and mountains of Spain to the gates of imperial Moscow. Extend the imagination just a little and we could go back-why, a thousand years, to that day on a hill overlooking the coast of Sussex when King Harold raised his eyes to view his enemy in full retreat, and got nothing but an arrow for his efforts-or another thousand years still, to the time of the great Julius and his invasion fleet as they landed a little further along the shore. We could go back to almost any day, in fact, and still it would be the same. Johnny Foreigner was a pain.

But this story starts on the Bayswater Road, and not with a King or an invading Emperor but an undersized figure named McFadden. He is a gentlemen's barber, and a good one. One of the best, in fact. A man with a sharp eye for detail and a soft hand, a punctilious sort of fellow both by his nature and by his trade. Yet McFadden is late, which is unusual for him. And he shouldn't be late, not today, for this is the day he has agreed to be married.

He has dressed as best he can in the circumstances, but it doesn't quite work.The heavy wool jacket is meant for someone at least ten pounds lighter and the button at his belly keeps coming undone. The rose in his buttonhole also refuses to cooperate. It has slipped away from its pin and is threatening to jump. McFadden mutters a dark spell under his breath and makes running repairs, hastening on his way, which isn't easy with his pronounced limp. We haven't mentioned his limp, but he has something badly wrong with his hips, which are out of line, and when he hurries he has to swivel his entire body in order to propel his right leg forward. So McFadden never likes to hurry. This isn't working out as he had hoped.

He had planned to make the journey by underground train from his home near the Piggeries in North Kensington to the register office at Caxton Hall, but when he turned up at the station he found nothing but an untidy notice pasted on the gates-"closed for urgent structural repairs." A minor deception, so far as official pronouncements went. The whole of London knows the truth. The station roofs are being reinforced so they can be used as bomb shelters.

Ah, but there isn't going to be any bombing.

They have the Prime Minister's word on that. He has flown back from Munich just the day before to announce that he has brought with him "peace with honor, peace for our time." Mac doesn't believe him, of course. Another cholemi, goddamn lie. Ever since the mohel had turned him over on the kitchen table and assured him that it wouldn't hurt, moments before cutting the end off his prick, he has known that the System always lies. (Not that he can remember anything about his circumcision, of course, but his elder brothers Yulek and Vovek never spared him the more gruesome details. He had screamed for hours afterwards.) Mac knows about lies. Lies have followed him like a shadow wherever he has gone and were usually there to greet him when he arrived-in Poland, in Germany, and particularly all those years in Russia. Now he is in England, and the only difference in Mac's mind between Mr. Neville Chamberlain and the psychopath Stalin is that the Englishman went to a proper school and has learned not to scratch his balls in public-although, come to think of it, Mac has never seen photographs of Stalin holding his own umbrella, there is that difference, too.

His leg is hurting like hell. It's always giving him gyp-he can't remember a time when the bloody thing wasn't on fire-and the damper it gets the more it burns, deep inside, right to the marrow of the bone. So Mac decides to take a shortcut across the park. Not one of his better decisions. The flat expanse of Hyde Park is usually serene and calm, but something has happened. Instead of green acres, Mac is greeted by a bubbling chaos of mud. Like Judgment Day. On all sides the earth has been torn open where workmen with pickaxes and mechanical shovels have hacked a chaotic maze of holes into the thick London clay. Trenches everywhere. "Air Raids-Public-For The Use Of"-hah! These bloody holes can't offer protection from the rain let alone from fat Goering's bombs. They aren't finished and already they've begun to fill with water, sullen and brown. Typical English idiocy. Treating war like a game of cricket. Something to be called off if it rains. Tzibeleh! They grow like onions, these English, with their heads stuck firmly in the earth.

The spoil from the newly dug graves is beginning to cling to Mac's shoes and find its way onto the legs of his trousers, even though the trousers, like the jacket, are conspicuously short. That's why they had been cheap, from the pawnbrokers on the Portobello. It's his only suit. And the rose in its lapel is wobbling once more.

McFadden isn't his real name, of course. Jewish boys born in Poland just before the turn of the century had names like Kleinman and Dubner and Goldberg. He'd been born in the small market town of Wadowice at the foot of the Carpathian mountains, in an airless upstairs room next to the women's ritual bathhouse and on a hot summer's day that had hung heavy with the dust from the harvest. He was one of six children and had been nothing more obvious than a schoolboy who spent his spare evenings as a part-time tailor's assistant, someone who was of no interest to anyone other than his parents, but that was before they had decided that they needed a new type of System in Europe and tore the old one apart. Mac had belonged to a small class of friends, eighteen in total, and every one of them had been swept up in the madness, conscripted, forced to fight for the Kaiser as part of Auffenberg's Fourth Army. But the Fourth Army had lasted only weeks and Mac's unit had been cut to pieces in front of the river town of Jaroslaw. Literally, cut to pieces. It was amazing how high a boy's screams could rise more than a year after his voice had broken. But still Mac hadn't escaped the System, for those few of his class who remained alive had been captured and questioned, then stood against a crumbling farmyard wall beside a filthy chicken coop and told they had a choice. The System was giving them a choice! Either they could fight for the Tsar or, if they preferred, they could be shot. Not much of a choice when you're still a few months short of your seventeenth birthday. So for the remainder of that awful year they had fought for the Russians against their old German comrades until the Revolution had come to rescue them from the madness and at last Mac had been able to throw away his rifle. But by then only he and Moniek, the doctor's son, were left. Still, they were alive, they felt special and they rejoiced. It was the last time Mac could remember being happy.

Meet the Author

Michael Dobbs served as one of the chief advisors to Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, and has also been a BBC presenter, Deputy Chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, and columnist for the Mail on Sunday, and during the Watergate years, a correspondent working in Boston for The Boston Globe. His previous novels include the bestselling House of Cards which was made into a highly popular TV series in England. He has a doctorate in nuclear defense studies, and lives not far from a prominent church in Longshire.

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Winston's War 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 291 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This provides a good insight to the period leading up to the second world war and Churchill becoming Prime Minister. It captures in detail the efforts made by Neville Chamberlain to win the peace at the expense of Czechoslovakia and the spiteful contempt that he and most others in the Government had for Churchill. The Gathering Storm DVD starring Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave also gives a good account of those times.
Jadjuka More than 1 year ago
This was very interesting especially to the younger generation who have yet to really understand who Churchill was and how important he was in driving back the Germans from England.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author goes to great pains to point out that the story is fictional, but the historical background is very accurate. It's very interesting to see World War II looming on the horizon from a British perspective. The historical incidents including the political intrigue among the parties and Churchill versus Chamberlain, all bear up if you look into them further. After reading this, I got the others by this author, too. It's intelligent historical fiction and tons of fun.
iPodReader More than 1 year ago
I don't normally read historical fiction but this one was a Free Fridays pick and I'm so glad I took this one. The characterizations of these historical figures were rich and well-rounded. I confess that the little I knew came mostly from my high school history classes and my judgments, formed long after the war was over, were basically "Winston Churchill good; Neville Chamberlin bad." It was great to have such balanced portraits of them and others around them that made me understand their motives much more clearly. I really commend Michael Dobbs for his even-handed treatment of these men and the dilemmas they faced in the moment. This would be a great book for anyone who wants to know more about the lead-up to World War II.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author has accomplished his goal of peaking the reader's interest in the subject matter. I found myself researching the characters in the plot and fully engrossed in the book. Great historical novel.
SprigPA More than 1 year ago
Very interesting to be exposed to the politics leading up to WW2. Power, control, pettiness, conflicts of interest and human nature all playing a role in the British government.
barry2B More than 1 year ago
I loved this book from the first page to the last. A fictional account of how Winston Churchill ended up being Prime Minister of England....or is it fiction?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Well written and entertaining. Readers of historical fiction should thoroughly enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting take of British politics at the outbreak of WW II.  Well written and fast moving.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really looked forwarded to returning to this book every time I picked up my Nook. Everyone knows the basic storyline, but the background and personalities are so interesting, all the backroom politics. If you are into history at all, you will love this book.
nWeb More than 1 year ago
Slow, plodding tome that is big on conversation and small on historical narrative left me wishing for more. I felt that I was watching one of those "history-based" Hollywood movies that so often leaves history behind to tell an exciting story. Only there was no exciting story, either. Was Dobbs characterization of the primary actors in the book true to life, or was their portrayal the author's imagination? Hard to tell. I am a Dobbs fan and he continues to write exceedingly well. Just that this book failed to arouse my interest, and I finished reading it about halfway through the book.
Terry_Vinson More than 1 year ago
As a World War II buff (but certainly not a scholar) I found "Winston's War" very enjoyable. The author has created a roman a clef with a huge cast of characters and several story lines. The most important one, of course is his telling of the machinations that went on in the British government under Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain that ended with Chamberlain's resignation and Churchill's ascension to the leadership. I knew that Churchill was despised by Chamberlain and his minions, but Dobbs really reveals the depth of their hatred. Those British politicians are every bit as bad as their American counterparts! Churchill himself doesn't come out of it completely unscathed either. Dobbs depicts him as somewhat two-faced, hesitant, and capable of making huge mistakes, such as his pushing for the aborted invasion of Norway early in the war. Churchill's heavy drinking is mentioned a lot. Some of the less important characters are vividly drawn, in particular Guy Burgess, an utterly dissolute gay man who is obsessed with helping Churchill become prime minister by any means at his disposal, legal or otherwise. Burgess was later uncovered as a Soviet spy and defected to Russia along with his lover Donald Maclean. "Winston's War" is a fascinating look at the years immediately prior to and after the beginning of World War II. I highly recommend it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Knowing I am not as well versed in history as I might/should be, I took advantage of this "Free Friday" selection and found it engrossing and entertaining. I had not expected either. I would recommend it to anyone wanting to be better informed about the beginnings of World War II but unwilling or uninterested in diving into traditional history books.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Why do contemporary male writers think it necessary to write as crudely as 15 year old boys speak? I gave this read up after the first few pages. Fortunately, it was a free Friday offering.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great tale of espionage and treason. It tales of Winston's rise to power at the time of WW II.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this to be pretty interesting, but I had a hard time getting through it. There are several intersting themes at work here, but one of the predominate ones is whether a politician should stay loyal to his constituents, his party, or himself. Each of the main characters here deal with this dilemma in different ways. One thing I struggled with was my lack of understanding of how British government and Parliment works. A good working knowledge of this would be very helpful in enjoying this otherwise excellent book.
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Insightful, interesting, intriguing.
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