There are thousands of books on Churchill so it can be a considerable challenge to write something completely new. Barry Singer is the owner of Chartwell Books in New York City, a bookstore famous for its focus on the works of Winston Churchill (and works about him). As a huge Churchill buff, he decided to write a book that focuses on an aspect of his life that’s only hinted at in most other works: Churchill’s sense of style.
It’s well known that Churchill liked nice things and lived a life of luxury. This desire for the good things in life drove his career – in politics and in writing. Being born into the British aristocracy, Churchill was accustomed to a certain style of living and he worked his entire life to maintain it – which is a very un-upper class thing to have to do.
Because Churchill was such an important historical figure, the style part of his life was heavily documented; leaving fertile ground for Singer’s research.
I like to think that I have an almost scholarly familiarity with Churchill’s life so that last thing I needed was another biography about Churchill’s life. So, I was a little disappointed at how much background information the author chose to include in this book. It’s essentially a cliff-noted biography of Churchill’s entire life and the author sometimes gets a little carried away playing historian but I would probably do the same if asked to write a book about Churchill. However, for people not as familiar with the broad strokes of Churchill’s life, it will be interesting reading.
The most interesting aspect of the book are the various asides where he talks about where Churchill was living at a given time, what he was wearing, etc. This is what makes the book worth reading. If you’re familiar with Churchill, you’ll find little new content in the biographical portion of the book and can skim over most of it and instead focus on the pictures and asides that focus solely on his style. My favorite parts were where the author talks about the various houses that the Churchill family lived in – he’s most famous for living in Chartwell, but he lived in many other interesting places.
The treat of this book are all the graphics and illustrations. There are a lot of pictures of Churchill that I haven’t seen in other books. Included are lists of what Churchill read and even real invoices from various London retailers he frequented (a list in the back helpfully indicates which ones you can still shop at).
It’s a breezy read that covers another fascinating aspect of Churchill’s life that was just waiting to be explored. The book is well presented with full color, printed on fine paper. They did not produce this book on the cheap. It’s a worthy addition to any Churchill library.