Posts Tagged ‘Churchill’

11:34 am

Troublesome Young Men

Another book that I just finished is Troublesome Young Men. The subtitle sums up the entire story: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England.

I had never given much thought to how Churchill came to power in World War II. I knew about Neville Chamberlain (he of appeasement, Munich and "peace in our time" fame), but it had never really occurred to me to wonder how England got from Chamberlain to Churchill. If you had asked me, I probably would have speculated that there had been an election, without ever realizing that I was thinking in American terms.

As I said, the subtitle gives the whole story: Chamberlain and Churchill were both members of the same party, and Chamberlain was ousted by rebels within that party who were dissatisfied with his appeasement policy and later lackadaisical approach to prosecuting the war. For all that the outcome is known, the author manages a real nailbiter here.

The author doesn’t have much fondness for Churchill, whom she depicts as being ungrateful and even hostile to the Conservatives who broke party ranks to bring him to power and stubbornly loyal to Chamberlain even after becoming Prime Minister. She brings into the light names I had previously not known, or known only in different contexts: Harold Macmillan (who would be Prime Minister in the 60s), Leo Amery, Alfred Duff Cooper, Robert Boothby, Lady Violet Bonham Carter, Harold Nicholson, and the author’s particular hero, Ronald Cartland.

And while the author doesn’t particular like Churchill, she reserves her greatest scorn for Chamberlain. He rejected any opposition to his policies as "disloyalty" (gee, where have we heard that one recently), punished party members who disagreed with him, and criminally failed to defend Britain’s interests.

Olson brilliantly violates Philip Roth’s dictum that "History is where everything unexpected in its own time is chronicled on the page as inevitable" and makes it clear just how far from inevitable were Churchill’s rise to power and Hitler’s subsequent defeat.

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