Eschewing the linear, chronological approach of most biographies, Yale Law School professor and Churchill devotee Rubin (Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide) has written 40 brief chapters looking at the British prime minister from multiple angles: Churchill as son, father, husband, orator, painter, historian, enemy of Hitler and many other roles. Rubin's unique approach works surprisingly well, bringing fresh insight to an exhaustively covered subject. Writing on Churchill as son, for instance, Rubin hammers home the point that he spent his life trying to measure up to an imagined, idealized father. Churchill's real father, Rubin makes clear, thought his son was destined for mediocrity and told him so. When she discusses Churchill's famous gifts as an orator, Rubin contends that his speeches were sometimes overblown, overly heroic and often ignored. She agrees with David Cannadine (In Churchill's Shadow) that Churchill's oratory was most effective when matched by times that required heroic action, such as the spring and summer of 1940. In a chapter devoted to Churchill's legendary drinking, Rubin provocatively presents arguments from both sides: that the drinking was harmless and that it was a major problem. In the end, Rubin sees "her" Churchill as a tragic hero. His life's goal was to preserve the British Empire, yet his greatest achievement, the defeat of Hitler, hastened the empire's end. While Rubin's account clearly isn't comprehensive and belabors a rather obvious point-that different, even opposing, perspectives on one life are possible-it is an excellent introduction to one of the most written about men in history. Photos. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
What do you get when a management author writes about Winston Churchill? This sampler of the many Churchill biographies already available. Rubin (Power, Money, Fame, Sex: A User's Guide) counts herself among Churchill's great fans. Among her 40 ways of looking at him are "Churchill the Drinker," which includes a section headlined "Churchill was an alcoholic" followed by another section countering "Churchill was not an alcoholic." It all depends on whom you quote. There are "Facts at a Glance," with a list of names of the people Churchill met, a list of the titles of royalty he served, and, near the end, "Churchill True or False." Most of the entries are about four pages long, with large type, wide margins, and nowhere near the exacting vocabulary for which Churchill was known. Newcomers to the topic may find some entries titillating, notably the section on Churchill's sex life, but it's hard to determine the best audience for this book. Any academic biography of Churchill would be more useful than this frothy title. An optional purchase.-Robert C Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, Billerica, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Adult/High School-In this fast-paced, fragmented account, each of the 40 short chapters examines one topic: Churchill as leader, father, in tears, etc. Some are no more than lists, one is a simple chronology, and another a compilation of quotes. But taken together, they capture some truths about him, chiefly the many contradictions and complexities of his life and career. Moreover, there are valuable lessons here concerning the difficulties of examining the great lives of history. Rubin has almost as much to say about biography as a subject as she has about Churchill-a good thing for readers relatively new to the genre. And a further lesson lies in her extensive notes and bibliography. It is instructive to witness how much research is necessary to support even a brief account of a long life. Average-quality, black-and-white photos have been thoughtfully chosen. Rubin has much to offer teens, especially those with only vague notions of the great man.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A fan’s notes on Winnie the Tory, tanked-up inventor of the tank and stalwart captain of Team UK in its finest hour. There’s only one way to look at a politician, said the curmudgeonly H.L. Mencken: down. But Rubin (Law/Yale), born after Churchill left this vale of tears, finds no cause to scorn the venerable Winston. His contemporaries surely did, of course, and for many reasons: some because his mother was American, some because he was apparently indifferent to the working class, some because he was something of a cold fish. Rubin takes up those arguments one by one, offering a sort of point-counterpoint examination of Churchill’s character. Considering him overall to have been a "tragic hero," she allows that his critics had their points. On Churchill’s legendary drinking, for example, she accepts with regret the possibility that Churchill may have been an alcoholicafter all, he drank 96 bottles of champagne in two weeks after being turned out of office at the end of WWIIbut counters, "Given Churchill’s extraordinary accomplishments . . . it’s difficult to credit that dependence on alcohol in any way impaired his health or abilities." Explaining merrily away, Rubin favors a newsreel style throughout: "When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s government fell in May 1940, the nation turned to Churchill. At last his unique qualities were brought to bear on a supreme challenge, and with his unshakable optimism, his heroic vision, and above all, his splendid speeches, Churchill roused the spirit of the British people." Though her research obviously goes deep, a little of this breeziness goes a long wayand doesn’t really do justice to a complex man whose long life beganshortly after the Civil War closed and ended the year Malcolm X was assassinated. Consider this a Cliff’s Notes for those too busy to read Churchill himself or one of his many solid biographers. Not much meat on these bones. Agent: Christy Fletcher/Carlisle & Co.
“A compelling read . . . Gretchen Rubin has produced a shrewd, original, and utterly engaging book, one that achieves the considerable feat of distilling an epic life to its essence while deconstructing the art of biography. Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill does for the writing of history what Wallace Stevens’s ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird’ did for poetry—both does it and shows us how it’s done.”
—JAMES ATLAS, author of Bellow: A Biography
“At last! A book to put all the other books on Churchill into perspective. The Great Man was in danger of becoming hidden by the forest of verbiage in his memory. Gretchen Rubin cuts a clear path to her subject, and along the way takes the reader on a fascinating and hilarious journey.”
—AMANDA FOREMAN, bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
“Was there ever a better subject for biography? Heroic, petty, noble, selfish, courageous, devious, grandiloquent, plain-speaking, generous, tyrannical, Churchill was all these and more. Rubin strives to capture the essence of her larger-than-life subject not through a head-on assault, but by circling him and taking snapshots from a multiplicity of angles. Her Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill is a feat of intelligent compression, a stereoscopic portrait for the space age, a biography in miniature, and not least, a rattling good read.”
—MICHAEL SCAMMELL, author of Solzhenitsyn: A Biography