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Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill


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GRETCHEN CRAFT RUBIN received her undergraduate and law degrees from Yale and was editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. She clerked for Justice Sandra Day O'Connor of the U.S. Supreme Court and served as counsel to Federal Communications Commissions Chairman Reed Hundt. She teaches at Yale Law School and School of Management and is the author of Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide.

Visit the author's Web site at www.gretchenrubin.com


What do you get when a management author writes about Winston Churchill? This sampler of the many Churchill biographies already available. Rubin (Power, Money, Fame, Sex: A User's Guide) counts herself among Churchill's great fans. Among her 40 ways of looking at him are "Churchill the Drinker," which includes a section headlined "Churchill was an alcoholic" followed by another section countering "Churchill was not an alcoholic." It all depends on whom you quote. There are "Facts at a Glance," with a list of names of the people Churchill met, a list of the titles of royalty he served, and, near the end, "Churchill True or False." Most of the entries are about four pages long, with large type, wide margins, and nowhere near the exacting vocabulary for which Churchill was known. Newcomers to the topic may find some entries titillating, notably the section on Churchill's sex life, but it's hard to determine the best audience for this book. Any academic biography of Churchill would be more useful than this frothy title. An optional purchase.-Robert C Moore, Bristol-Myers Squibb Medical Imaging, Billerica, MA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-In this fast-paced, fragmented account, each of the 40 short chapters examines one topic: Churchill as leader, father, in tears, etc. Some are no more than lists, one is a simple chronology, and another a compilation of quotes. But taken together, they capture some truths about him, chiefly the many contradictions and complexities of his life and career. Moreover, there are valuable lessons here concerning the difficulties of examining the great lives of history. Rubin has almost as much to say about biography as a subject as she has about Churchill-a good thing for readers relatively new to the genre. And a further lesson lies in her extensive notes and bibliography. It is instructive to witness how much research is necessary to support even a brief account of a long life. Average-quality, black-and-white photos have been thoughtfully chosen. Rubin has much to offer teens, especially those with only vague notions of the great man.-Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Eschewing the linear, chronological approach of most biographies, Yale Law School professor and Churchill devotee Rubin (Power Money Fame Sex: A User's Guide) has written 40 brief chapters looking at the British prime minister from multiple angles: Churchill as son, father, husband, orator, painter, historian, enemy of Hitler and many other roles. Rubin's unique approach works surprisingly well, bringing fresh insight to an exhaustively covered subject. Writing on Churchill as son, for instance, Rubin hammers home the point that he spent his life trying to measure up to an imagined, idealized father. Churchill's real father, Rubin makes clear, thought his son was destined for mediocrity and told him so. When she discusses Churchill's famous gifts as an orator, Rubin contends that his speeches were sometimes overblown, overly heroic and often ignored. She agrees with David Cannadine (In Churchill's Shadow) that Churchill's oratory was most effective when matched by times that required heroic action, such as the spring and summer of 1940. In a chapter devoted to Churchill's legendary drinking, Rubin provocatively presents arguments from both sides: that the drinking was harmless and that it was a major problem. In the end, Rubin sees "her" Churchill as a tragic hero. His life's goal was to preserve the British Empire, yet his greatest achievement, the defeat of Hitler, hastened the empire's end. While Rubin's account clearly isn't comprehensive and belabors a rather obvious point-that different, even opposing, perspectives on one life are possible-it is an excellent introduction to one of the most written about men in history. Photos. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"A compelling read . . . Gretchen Rubin has produced a shrewd, original, and utterly engaging book, one that achieves the considerable feat of distilling an epic life to its essence while deconstructing the art of biography. Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill does for the writing of history what Wallace Stevens's 'Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird' did for poetry-both does it and shows us how it's done."
-JAMES ATLAS, author of Bellow: A Biography

"At last! A book to put all the other books on Churchill into perspective. The Great Man was in danger of becoming hidden by the forest of verbiage in his memory. Gretchen Rubin cuts a clear path to her subject, and along the way takes the reader on a fascinating and hilarious journey."
-AMANDA FOREMAN, bestselling author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire

"Was there ever a better subject for biography? Heroic, petty, noble, selfish, courageous, devious, grandiloquent, plain-speaking, generous, tyrannical, Churchill was all these and more. Rubin strives to capture the essence of her larger-than-life subject not through a head-on assault, but by circling him and taking snapshots from a multiplicity of angles. Her Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill is a feat of intelligent compression, a stereoscopic portrait for the space age, a biography in miniature, and not least, a rattling good read."
-MICHAEL SCAMMELL, author of Solzhenitsyn: A Biography

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