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


  1. I really enjoyed this when I read it a while ago. I went on to read the fourth book in the series, but I do need to go back and read the first and third books in the series.

  2. It's your fault that my wishlist is so long...but you'll never hear me complain! Instead, only thanks.

  3. If you want to fully understand what a truly brilliant war leader Churchill was, you have only to listen to the recordings of his speeches. A man who loved and honoured the English language, he always hit the right emotional mark when addressing Parliament or the British people. My grandmother told me that after Dunkirk the mood in the country was very, very depressed, everyone thought that invasion was immanent, but when Winston addressed the nation he stiffened their sinews and injected a sense of pride and determination which stood the country in good stead whilst Britain stood alone against the military might of the Nazis.

  4. Marg, I've intended to read the others in the series, too, but haven't found them yet...I'll grab them, though, when/if I spot them because I really enjoyed this one.

  5. Sorry 'bout that, bybee...keep turning those pages. :-)

  6. Herschelian, I'm a longtime admirer of Churchill and have listened to recordings of many of his speeches. He was a special man, absolutely the perfect leader for Britain at that point in time, IMO. I've been doing a bit of WWII reading, mostly fiction, lately and I'm more and more impressed with the leaders in that conflict...some on both sides.