The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Version: Unabridged
Author: Erik Larson
Narrator: Erik Larson , John Lee
Genres: History
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Published In: February 2020
# of Units: 14 CDs
Length: 14 hours
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The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Devil in the White City and Dead Wake delivers a fresh and compelling portrait of Winston Churchill and London during the Blitz

NAMED ONE OF THE MOST ANTICIPATED BOOKS OF 2020 BY The Washington Post • HuffPost • The Seattle Times • Lit Hub • The Week • PopSugar

On Winston Churchill’s first day as prime minister, Adolf Hitler invaded Holland and Belgium. Poland and Czechoslovakia had already fallen, and the Dunkirk evacuation was just two weeks away. For the next twelve months, Hitler would wage a relentless bombing campaign, killing 45,000 Britons. It was up to Churchill to hold his country together and persuade President Franklin Roosevelt that Britain was a worthy ally—and willing to fight to the end.

In The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson shows, in cinematic detail, how Churchill taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” It is a story of political brinkmanship, but it’s also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country home, Chequers; his wartime retreat, Ditchley, where he and his entourage go when the moon is brightest and the bombing threat is highest; and of course 10 Downing Street in London. Drawing on diaries, original archival documents, and once-secret intelligence reports—some released only recently—Larson provides a new lens on London’s darkest year through the day-to-day experience of Churchill and his family: his wife, Clementine; their youngest daughter, Mary, who chafes against her parents’ wartime protectiveness; their son, Randolph, and his beautiful, unhappy wife, Pamela; Pamela’s illicit lover, a dashing American emissary; and the advisers in Churchill’s “Secret Circle,” to whom he turns in the hardest moments.
The Splendid and the Vile takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership, when, in the face of unrelenting horror, Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.

This audiobook includes a recording of Winston Churchill's 1941 Christmas Eve speech.

Reviews (5)


Written by Anonymous on May 28th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

The book revealed the life of Churchill, his family dynamics and the people whom with he surrounded himself . That piece of history from 1940-1941 was so interesting. At the same time, the listener was told the German government’s strategic thinking on England and the war. The narration was so easy to follow and voices were done so well.


Written by Anonymous on May 17th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Riveting. More than a work of history -- and it is a fresh, well-researched study of Churchill and his world during the Blitz -- but also an inspiring book for our problematic times. Larson has given us a reminder of what one gifted leader who sees the broad picture can accomplish.

Written by Samuel H. on May 13th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Winston Churchill has always been one of my favorite people from history. I have read a great deal by and about him, and this is one of the best. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Written by Kenneth D. on April 3rd, 2020

  • Book Rating: 5/5

Well written and well narrated. They brought in the extended Churchill family (including children that taxed their father). They also brought in many of leaders of The 1st year as PM. They even brought in what the Germans were thinking about Churchill during the Blitz. The narration was excellent. Made for a great Covid-19 listen.


Written by Anonymous on March 14th, 2020

  • Book Rating: 4/5

More detailed and personal Churchillian chronicle than anything I had read before on the subject and a compelling description of the frightful situation confronted by the targets of the Blitz. The narration was a bit flip and off-putting to my mind and somewhat distracting

Author Details

Author Details

Larson, Erik

Erik Larson grew up in Freeport, Long Island and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in Russian history and from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. He has written for many newspapers and national magazines, and has published three previous works of nonfiction, Isaac's Storm, Lethal Passage: The Story of a Gun, and The Naked Consumer. He lives in Seattle with his wife, their three daughters, and a host of pets.