Form and Content
There are manifest difficulties in writing a single volume dealing with so monumental a figure as Winston Spencer Churchill, particularly one intended for young adult readers. Yet Olivia Coolidge, in Winston Churchill and the Story of Two World Wars, has accurately and critically re-created the lineaments of a Churchill who is both a three-dimensional figure and an eminently human one. She places him in the contexts of England’s most banal politics and the twentieth century’s epic and ghastly wars. Her opening chapter sketches the cycle of Churchill family fortunes over several centuries, from the military greatness—unique even in Great Britain—of Winston’s ancestor, the duke of Marlborough, through generations of noble but pedestrian familial stewardship, then back to the brilliant promise and tragedy of Lord Randolph Churchill, Winston’s father. The family is prelude, however, and Coolidge primarily deals with Churchill as a person who has learned to confront events on his own.
After a lonely and introspective childhood among indifferent parents, Winston, as Coolidge emphasizes in subsequent chapters, thereafter responded best to crises—above all, to wars. Thus, of her fifteen chronologically arranged chapters, eleven deal with Churchill’s career just prior to and during the unprecedented challenges of World Wars I and II. Even so, she finds space to deal with two lesser wars that gave a fillip to his youthful fortunes: one in...
(The entire section is 528 words.)