Sunday, 18 July 2010
I came to this book about the run up to the first major engagement in WWII with two TV programmes echoing in my mind: The Wilderness Years by Ferdinand Fairfax and The Gathering Storm by Hugh Whitemore. These excellent films take as read that Churchill is the hero. Michael Dobbs is more circumspect. In his epilogue he offers his own view on the vital role played by Churchill, but his fiction allows the reader to ask the questions that Chamberlain must have asked over and over. Was Churchill a war monger; was there even at the final hour a peaceful alternative? Dobbs takes his reader through the politics. A country with a frail economy and growing unemployment needed peace and trade; it got war. Dobbs allows five or so plots to run side by side, and this allows the reader to see the action from a number of different points of view. The stories are fully written; there is a good deal of content in this book. What is so clever is that, whilst we know how it ends, we cannot see how that end will be reached until very near the end.