“Never read a book once if you don’t want to read it a second time” - Anonymous

For a while now, I’ve had an aspirational goal for my reading, which I’ve heard longtime reader/learners practice: Finish a book; capture rough impressions within a day or so; and re-read a week or two later, pen in hand. Lather, rinse, repeat. Today I will put this in practice for the first time.

Last night I finished The Last Lion: Volume 1: Winston Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874 - 1932 by William Manchester. It was a sometimes slow-going read, but I enjoyed it immensely. I am largely ignorant of English history and was happy to have a telling of it without an American perspective.

Now, on to some takeaways:

  • Churchill had such a loveless, lonely childhood. Mrs. Everest was his primary caregiver and her picture hung in his bedroom till the day he died.
  • It was interesting to see him hold on to Victorian ideals as society moved on. While some of this had shades of racism characteristic of the British Empire, he never held unexamined or static opinions for long.

    Churchill, however, always had second and third thoughts, and they usually improved as he went along. It was part of his pattern of response to any political issue that while his early reactions were often emotional, and even unworthy of him, they were usually succeeded by reason and generosity.

  • Went from being an indifferent, below-average student to a highly prolific, world-renowned author. At various points the most highly paid as well. Went from a speaker most recognizable for his lisp to the most noteworthy orator among a House of Commons filled with top orators. And this is still before WWII.
  • Very changeable - From the Army to the first lord of the Admiralty back to the Army–in office and out. He is the father of the tank! He learned to fly at the dawn of aviation! Went from the Liberal party to the Torries, ran as an Independent, then back to the Liberals.
  • Never quit - He made a fortune on the strength of his pen and person, lost it on Black Tuesday, and made it back again the same way. He was in and out of the House of Commons, in and out of Cabinet positions, in and out of public affection (the Dardanelles) and public attention. He had a price on his head when working for the Free Irish State (they succeeded in killing Michael Collins and others–so not idle threats). The book ends in 1932 with Churchill recovering after having been hit by a taxi in New York City and entering the “political wilderness.”

This book weighs in at just under 1,000 pages, so a second, closer re-read will be no mean feat. Just writing this post makes me want to dig in again, however, so maybe the odds are good in the end.