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BOOK REVIEW: Survey of Kennedys, Churchill is deeply flawed

By Tess Bridgwater
February 04, 2015 - 0 comments

 

REVIEWED: When Lions Roar: The Churchills and the Kennedys

by Thomas Maier (Crown Publishing Group, 784 pages $35 hardcover)

With several Churchill and Kennedy books on my bookshelf and a particular interest in wartime and political history, I was looking forward to reading this book, but I was to be disappointed.

Like many books of European history written by American authors, it is rife with factual and stylistic errors and before the end of section one, I had spotted a few, some more significant than others.

For instance, Winston Churchill's birthplace, Blenheim Palace is not a Gothic Castle but a Baroque Palace built in 1722 by a grateful nation, for his ancestor the first Duke of Marlborough, after his victory at the Battle of Blenheim

Churchill's beloved childhood nanny is frequently referred to in the book as Mrs. "Everett," when in fact her name was Mrs. Everest.

And Harrow, one of the three best known schools in England — where Churchill was an indifferent student — is known just as Harrow or Harrow School, but never, ever, Harrow boarding school.

Small points to the average reader perhaps, but not acceptable in a book that retails for $35.

While the rest of the book seems a more accurate record of the historic period surrounding the Second World War — the 1930s and '40's — much of it can be found in earlier books or has a gossipy tone, and I have a problem with the basic premise of the book.

While undoubtedly the Churchills and Kennedys were acquainted, moving in the same political and social circles, it is unlikely they were friendly, and to place them on the same pedestal as lions of the century is a stretch at best.

Churchill was not yet prime minister when Joseph Kennedy, the father of president John F. Kennedy, bought himself the ambassadorship to the United Kingdom in 1938-40. His policy of appeasement of the Nazis put him in direct conflict with the British government and Churchill, and there was a collective sigh of relief when he was recalled to Washington after his undistinguished career as a diplomat.

It was not until later during the war years that Churchill achieved the pinnacle of his career and he became lionized throughout the world for his heroic leadership during the war.

By the time president Kennedy was in the White House — from 1961 until his assassination in 1963 — Churchill's influence was in the past and the former prime minister died in 1965, after a long decline, age 91.

While Jack Kennedy undoubtedly left a legacy, as one of the most popular and U.S. presidents of modern times, it is hardly one to be lionized.

The Kennedys are better known for their tragedies and scandals, but they make good copy and by now, everything there is to know has probably been written and documented about this legendary American family.

The political connection is very tenuous and I consider this book another attempt to bleed some literary milk out of the Kennedys, at the expense of a genuine old lion — Winston Churchill.

Let us leave him where he belongs, and lay the poor blighted Kennedys to rest.      

See original post HERE.                   

 

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