The Splendid and the Vile Book Review
There are few things more terrifying than watching history repeat itself – especially when that history is rooted in death, war, and xenophobia. After reading “The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Erik Larson, I couldn’t help but make connections between the conflicts and turmoil experienced across Europe in the past and how it is happening before our eyes again today.
It is a story of amazing courage that centers around the Blitz that happened on Winston Churchill’s first day as Prime Minister and the events that unfolded after. There are strong similarities between how the world handled Hitler’s subsequent invasions and how we are witnessing that same story play out with terrorist Vladimir Putin waging an unjustified war against Ukraine.
“The Splendid and the Vile” tells a deep and personal story about Winston Churchill and how he held the coalition together. It sets the scene where Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium, Poland and Czechoslovakia had fallen, and Dunkirk was near evacuation. Hitler had killed 45,000 Britons with his bombs, and it was up to Churchill to hold the country together and attempt to convince President Franklin Roosevelt to pull through with the United States as an ally. Roosevelt walked a fine line trying to get support for England when American sentiments were primarily anti-war – until the Japanese entered with a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Then the US stepped into the ring, the gloves came off, and America defeated one of the worst war criminals in the earth’s history.
It is interesting to see how past events can so closely reflect the climate of the present day. Putin effectively declared war in a speech on Feb. 24 and suggested that the West and its “irresponsible politicians” were encroaching on Russia’s borders and creating “fundamental threats.” He described Russia as the defender of oppressed minorities and said that it acted just as the Soviet Union did in 1941 and tried everything it could to avoid war. These are essentially the same sentiments that Hitler shared when rallying for support and gaining momentum toward invading Poland in 1939 at the start of WWII. After a build-up of tensions, Hitler launched a full-scale invasion, similar to what we’re seeing happen in Ukraine.
Maybe it’s too early to compare Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy with Churchill – but I don’t think so. There is similar bravery between them, with a seemingly doubtless confidence that they will win the war against a major superpower. Ukraine went from total shock that an attack was underway, to mobilizing all of its armed forces and having thousands of volunteers from Ukraine and beyond join the fight for their freedom. While national support has been overwhelming, Ukraine requires European support and that of other western nations rallied by President Biden to succeed, similar to how England needed foreign assistance to fight against invasion.
Thankfully, the U.S. recently authorized its largest delivery of military aid to Ukraine and has a seemingly endless stream of announcements for ammunition, weapons and equipment. I hope that with added resources Zelenskyy and the courageous Ukrainians and foreign volunteers will persevere until they completely banish the Russians and Putin to oblivion. Zelenskyy recently confirmed Ukraine’s successful counterattack in the Kharkiv region in the northeast of the country, which is amazing news for their efforts and a positive sign.
“The Splendid and the Vile” takes diaries, original archival documents, and formerly secret intelligence reports to tell the story of London’s darkest year through the daily experience of Churchill, his family, and his inner circle. There are sometimes gory and horrifying accounts in the book that detail the same despicable things happening to our friends in Ukraine, such as the murder, looting, and rape of civillians as well as countless other war crimes. This evil behavior is the same sociopathic ruthlessness that Hitler acted with to pursue his objective, and it should not be viewed as anything but an undeniable attack on human rights.
Every American should know how critical it is to defeat Russia and its aggression against Europe. Repeating mistakes of the past, certain current politicians and spineless individuals are beginning to mimic the Russian propaganda that could ultimately weaken our will and democracy. It is increasingly important to take a stand against the immoralities of this war or potentially fall victim to its terroristic grasp.
I highly recommend this book, mainly because there are many enlightening anecdotes and lessons that relate closely to the issues we face in the present day. If we do not take action against the evils we can see clearly throughout our societies, then we are doomed to repeat the worst elements of our history.