Book Review: The Last Lion, Volume 3 by William Manchester & Paul Reid

The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-65The Last Lion 3: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-65 by William R. Manchester

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

William Manchester wrote the first two volumes of his planned Winston Churchill biography (The Last Lion: Visions of Glory and The Last Lion: Alone) before suffering several strokes that resulted in his inability to continue writing. This third volume was written by Paul Reid based on Manchester’s notes and research and covers Churchill’s life starting with his return from political exile during World War II to his death.
In some ways, Paul Reid had an impossible task. William Manchester was a lyrical writer, a master of prose, who managed the near impossible feat of making non-fiction as much of a pleasure and as easy to read as fiction. Fans of the first two volumes were eagerly awaiting the final volume, which cover the events of World War II that made Churchill’s reputation.
While this final volume is not as beautifully written as the first two, the exhaustive research and the compelling world events make this volume almost as readable as its predecessors. While I may have some quibbles with the author’s interpretation of events (I think, for example, that he is unnecessarily harsh in his characterization of Clementine, Winston’s wife), the judgments are always based on factual evidence, and reasonable minds can differ over interpretation.
For some reason, Americans have always held Winston Churchill in higher esteem than the British. This biography does not flinch away from some of Churchill’s less endearing characteristics nor does it plunge into hero worship. It manages to walk the fine line of recognizing the subject’s faults while also acknowledging the debt that is owed to him.
I highly recommend this trilogy for anyone who wants to learn more about Winston Churchill and his role during a pivotal time in world history.

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