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Friday, August 08, 2008

Never Surrender

Winston Churchill was done no favor when he was named Prime Minister in May of1940 just hours before Adolph Hitler’s invasion of Belgium, Holland and France. As the world watched in horror, Hitler’s army marched through those countries with surprising ease and pushed Britain’s forces to the coast at Dunkirk where they seemed to be trapped like fleeing rats. Never Surrender tells the story of what turned out to be one of the most important three weeks of the twentieth century. It was during those dark days that Churchill almost single-handedly managed to keep his government from suing for peace with Hitler even when it appeared that his country would soon have no army or air force left with which to fight.

Michael Dobbs portrays a Winston Churchill who at times seems to succeed in spite of himself. Despite his bouts of depression, his drinking habits and the fact that most of his colleagues were convinced that he was already a failure, Churchill gave his countrymen the will to defy Hitler when it seemed near impossible that their resistance could ever succeed. The Winston Churchill of Never Surrender is a man filled with self-doubt, a man who still craves the approval of his long dead father, and a man who is willing to do whatever is necessary to save his beloved country. If he has to lie to his fellow ministers and staff, he will do it. If he has to ask thousands of men to sacrifice their lives in a hopeless battle to win time for others to escape Hitler’s trap, he will do that. He understands, even if only a few others do, that negotiating with Adolph Hitler is the same as surrender, and he will never surrender.

But there is more to Never Surrender than Winston Churchill. Dobbs uses side stories and characters to further detail what was happening at all levels of British society during those crucial days. There are Don Chichester, a young conscientious objector and orderly with the British army in France and his Anglican vicar father who considers him to be a coward for not taking up arms against the enemy. There is Ruth Mueller, a German refugee and Hitler biographer, who has fled to England after being sickened by what has become of her own country, and who becomes an unofficial adviser to Churchill about what makes Adolph Hitler tick. There is even Joseph Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to Britain, who watches smugly, and almost hopefully, as Churchill’s options become fewer and fewer, a man willing to mislead President Roosevelt despite the consequences.

Never Surrender is a suspenseful account of what one man achieved despite obstacles that would have stopped most men in their tracks. Faced with obstinate military leaders who would not follow orders, defeatist ministers who were ready to quit the fight, and self-doubts of his own, Churchill was still able to defy Hitler and to rescue more than three hundred thousand men from the beaches of Dunkirk, men who would live to fight another day. The world was lucky that Winston Churchill came along when he did. Michael Dobbs has done a remarkable job in explaining just how lucky.



Rated at: 4.0

As originally published on Curled Up with a Good Book
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