Winston's War: A Novel of Conspiracy

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Overview

From Michael Dobbs, author of the book that inspired the smash hit Netflix series House of Cards, comes Winston's War, a thrilling novel about the dawn of WWII and Winston Churchill's rise to power.

At the beginning of WWII, 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. ...

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Winston's War: A Novel of Conspiracy

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Overview

From Michael Dobbs, author of the book that inspired the smash hit Netflix series House of Cards, comes Winston's War, a thrilling novel about the dawn of WWII and Winston Churchill's rise to power.

At the beginning of WWII, 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

Praise for Michael Dobbs, bestselling author of House of Cards, the book that inspired the Netflix series starring Kevin Spacey:

"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."—Booklist

"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

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781402217746
  • Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/2009
  • Pages: 582
  • Sales rank: 408,998
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Dobbs is also Lord Dobbs of Wylye, a member of the British House of Lords. He is Britain's leading political novelist and has been a senior adviser to Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major and David Cameron. His bestselling books include House of Cards, which was made into an award winning TV series in the UK and is currently being remade into a major US television series by Kevin Spacey and the director David Fincher. Read more on his website - www.michaeldobbs.com.
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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.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 289 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 289 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A very enjoyable Book

    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.

    26 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 3, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Very Interesting

    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.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    Terrific Historical Novel

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 19, 2012

    Outstanding

    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.

    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2012

    Outstanding

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 18, 2012

    Insightful reading

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 17, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Very Highly recommended!

    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?

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Well written and entertaining. Readers of historical fiction should thoroughly enjoy.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2013

    Interesting take of British politics at the outbreak of WW II.  

    Interesting take of British politics at the outbreak of WW II.  Well written and fast moving.  

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2012

    Slow beginning picks up halfway through

    I am "newby" to historical fiction and decided to give this book a try when it was a Free Friday selection a few months back. The rising action is very slow- lots of names with conspiratoral overtones and characters who wear their passions (and allegances) on their sleeve. Aside from slow plot development, my biggest hangup was the writing style- long paragraphs with occasional sentence syntax issues. I began to enjoy the book however after the approximate halfway point. Even then though, I couldn't help wondering when it was going to end. Overall, I feel it was worth the read- barely.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 19, 2012

    Could not finish this book. tried REAL hard to follow the story

    Could not finish this book. tried REAL hard to follow the story, but was very bored. hoping the hubby will have a better review for it...

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2012

    Awful!

    This author seems bent on showing you how ungodly churchill was. And the author dosen't hesitate to use four letter words often. Awful buy!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 7, 2012

    Soooo Interesting

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    A dreary read

    This book is a terrific example of why a good writer needs a good editor. Dobbs has a way with words and can craft a wonderful picture, setting a scene down to the smallest detail. Unfortunately, he does describe every smallest detail, taking several pages to describe something as small as walking across a field, or driving to someone's house. A good editor would have knocked out three quarters of this book's length, at a minimum. What would be left would be an excellent short story, once you shear off the endless and unneccesary exposition.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2012

    Not up to Michael Dobbs usual good read

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2012

    Very readable - as fiction and history

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 4, 2012

    An historical novel non history buffs can enjoy.

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Coarse

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2012

    A tale of WW II

    A great tale of espionage and treason. It tales of Winston's rise to power at the time of WW II.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

    Great read

    Although billed as fiction, this was a most interesting account of events leading up to WW2. I was a small child during this time but can remember rationing etc after the US entered the war, and several relatives served in the armed services. It was interesting to get an insight into the personalities of the two main characters and also the sub-stories of the everyday people. I was influenced to puchase this book by the fact of the author had also written House of Cards.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 289 Customer Reviews

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