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Review: Churchill & Orwell - The Fight for Freedom by Thomas E. Ricks

To begin with I openly state that I was given an advance reading copy for free by the publisher.

You'll have to excuse my sojourn away from the work of Conan Doyle and Holmes for this post. I am making an exception because both of the subjects of this book were contemporaries of Conan Doyle for varying amounts of time and one of them met with Conan Doyle more than once.

Churchill & Orwell - The Fight for Freedom by Thomas Ricks is a wonderful read and it stands out from other biographies in my opinion (and I've read a lot). On the face of it these two men come from opposite ends of the spectrum but, as it turns out, they had much in common and admired each other (to varying extents).

Ricks alternates from one man to the other in each chapter and does so in a way that is not jarring. Events are focused on the Second World War and beyond so the very early life of both men is dealt with quickly and largely in summary. He then delves into the war years and shows how both men reacted to the war, the social changes it heralded, and their contemporaries - both allies and opponents - and, in turn, how their contemporaries saw them.

The aspect about Ricks' work that I both admired and found uncomfortable is the way in which he bluntly criticises British and American actions and attitudes both during and following the war. This is not easy to do objectively but he has managed it. As a Briton, I found his fairly constant focus on America's rise and Britain's decline to be hard going regardless of its accuracy. This was balanced by his commentary on, what I would describe as, American hotheadedness and dismissal of valuable British experience.

I could barely put this book down and that says a lot. Biographies are arguably my favourite type of non-fiction and I have found many wanting - especially when they have tried to take on more than one subject. I would happily have bought this book in this form even though it is an advanced reading copy lacking both pictures and an index. That said, I will, at some point, have a look at the finished article just to see the chosen photographs.

Buy it if you have even the remotest interest in these men and their times.


Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here
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