Saturday, June 6, 2009

Their Finest Hour, Installment One

As I'm sure Kami could have guessed, I have so much to say already about the book and I am only 1/5 of the way through it, that I decided to proceed with an installment system. Forgive me my vulgar language while I say: Winston is THE MAN.

The book (the second of his complete history of WWII) starts just as Winston is finally made Prime Minister, is in the process of reforming the government ministries, and on the eve of the disastrous Battle of the Bulge. He starts his book by expressing his great joy at finally being in charge. He states, "But power in a national crisis, when a man believes he knows what orders should be given, is a blessing. In any sphere of action there can be no comparison between the positions of number one and number two, three, or four." So true. This resonates with me because I like to be in charge. When I would return from Enrichment committe meetings Timothy would ask, "Were you a good Indian?" I'm much more comfortable as chief. My desire to be in charge, however, lacked the acute dismay of watching those above me completely ignore threats to my country's very existence. Chamberlain carefully led Britain down a path that could only result in catastrophe. Winston was frustrated and despondent during the years leading to the war--knowing what was going to happen but absolutely unable to stop it.

No wonder he took the reins with a sigh of relief and exultation.

Another major point of the first few chapters of the book is Winston's careful changing of the guard--so to speak. In that bizarre British way, everyone had to be shifted between all the critical posts. We frequently hear about Winston as the British bulldog, and how unchanging he was in his opinions, but we don't hear as often about Winston as politician. To be as successful as he was, he had to compromise. This is often overlooked. I enjoyed reading about the delicate maneuvering that took place as war loomed only days away. If Winston really wanted a person in a position, he got him. However, the positions he cared about less he balanced between the three parties in a political dance that demonstrated his political prowess.

Reading about the Battle of the Bulge was frustrating--so many chances to stop Hitler lost to poor planning and hubris. The evacuation at Dunkirk--what can you say about so much bravery, compassion, loyalty, and selflessness?

Reading about WWII from Winston's own pen has proved every bit as fascinating and enjoyable as I expected. I reiterate: Winston is THE MAN.

No comments: