The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson

“On the fiftieth anniversary of Churchill’s death, Boris Johnson celebrates the singular brilliance of one of the most important leaders of the twentieth century. Taking on the myths and misconceptions along with the outsized reality, he portrays—with characteristic wit and passion—a man of contagious bravery, breathtaking eloquence, matchless strategizing, and deep humanity.
Fearless on the battlefield, Churchill had to be ordered by the king to stay out of action on D-Day; he pioneered aerial bombing and few could match his experience in organizing violence on a colossal scale,  yet he hated war and scorned politicians who had not experienced its horrors. He was the most famous journalist of his time and perhaps the greatest orator of all time, despite a lisp and chronic depression he kept at bay by painting. His maneuvering positioned America for entry into World War II, even as it ushered in England’s post-war decline. His open mindedness made him a trailblazer in health care, education, and social welfare, though he remained incorrigibly politically incorrect. Most of all, he was a rebuttal to the idea that history is the story of vast and impersonal forces; he is proof that one person—intrepid, ingenious, determined—can make all the difference.”

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always follow foreign affairs closely unless it’s in the past. The only things I knew about Boris Johnson was that he is Prime Minister, doesn’t own a comb, and was hit with Covid quite hard last year. I don’t know his politics. What I also didn’t know was that Johnson is also a writer, and a damn good one at that. Winston Churchill is always great to read about, but Johnson made him even more interesting, if that’s possible.

Like many other reviewers have mentioned, this book is written in a conversational way, as if you sat down with a historian in a bar and had a four-hour conversation about Churchill, his life, and his impact on British and world politics. I listened to the audiobook at work one day and time just flew by, it was such an easy listen. I’ve read a lot about Churchill, and the tendency is to be a bit on the dry side. Not the case here. It was refreshing to listen to the history of the most consequential man of the 20th century (IMO, at least).

Winston Churchill had a great sense of humor, and finally, an author was able to highlight it throughout the book. But that’s not to say that Churchill’s serious side wasn’t explored. It was a well-balanced book in that regard.

However, Johnson glosses over some of Churchill’s failings of character like his insistence on imperialism and how he was against things like an independent India and women’s suffrage. From my prior reading of Churchill in two books, which you can read my reviews for #NetGalley #KindleReview Churchill: An Illustrated Life by Brenda Ralph Lewis and Churchill: Walking With Destiny, he was also obsessed with using mustard gas or other chemical weapons. Let’s not forget how he handled the Irish or his World War I campaign at the Dardanelles, either. Churchill wasn’t a perfect man by any means, but the author seems to forgive most of those transgressions and more.

Overall, if you want to know more about Winston Churchill, this is not an in-depth biography, but rather an overview of a man who led an extraordinary life. I would recommend to anyone who wants to know more about Churchill but doesn’t want to get bogged down into textbook-like history.

This is the 48th Audiobook I’ve listened to as part of my 2021 Audiobook Challenge.

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    • That hero worship was the impression I got as well. Johnson knows how to write, I’ll give him that, but this is definitely not an objective biography. American politicians often write a book before they run for president, and I suspect this book was written along the same vein.

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