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Martin Brecht
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A refreshing interpretation of the literary influences on Churchill's career

The Literary Churchill: Author, Reader, Actor: Writer, Reader, Actor - Jonathan Rose

This book isn't a biography of Winston Churchill, nor is it an study of his literary works. Rather, Jonathan Rose's book is a more subtle work which analyzes the influence of literature and the theater on Churchill's political career. Rose sees much of Churchill's public image as the product of a conscious pose modeled after many of the tropes of popular theater. Churchill was hardly unique in this respect, as his political career began in an era when dramatic oratory was highly prized, and many politicians appreciated the value of the "coup d'theatre". Though Churchill's approach proved dated in the interwar era, with its preference for less affected politicians, it made him the ideal opponent for Adolf Hitler, a figure Rose sees as "a photo negative" to Churchill in his similar embrace of politics-as-theater. The dramatic style which was out of step in the interwar era proved a perfect fit for the war, becoming a critical component of both Churchill's success as prime minister and his depiction of his role in his image-defining postwar memoirs.

Rose's approach offers a fresh and interesting perspective to understanding the ways in which Churchill shaped and defined his achievements. Though Rose oversells his argument by trying to read the influence of literature into more aspects of Churchill's life than it can plausibly sustain, he makes a convincing case for viewing Churchill as more than just a politician who earned his income as a writer. Readers seeking to learn more about Churchill literary career would be better served by turning to more specialized studies such as David Reynolds's In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War or Peter Clarke's Mr. Churchill's Professionbut for how literature helped make him into the unique politician he was this is the book to read.