Winston Churchill biographies come in all shapes and sizes, from the massive to the svelte. John Keegan's contribution to the genre is definitely on the latter end of that spectrum; his book, a volume in the Penguin Lives series, covers Churchill's nine decades in less than 200 pages. To achieve this, Keegan must condense a long and active life, one that stretched from participation in Queen Victoria's "little wars" to an effort to achieve detente with the Soviet Union. This invariably requires the sacrifice of depth and detail, yet it also gives Keegan an opportunity to define more clearly the overarching themes of Churchill's life, which he sees as defined by clearly delineated moral principles to which he remained true throughout his long political career.
Keegan also brings to his task a long career as a military correspondent and historian, and it is no surprise that his coverage of Churchill's career is exceptionally insightful considering the space available. And yet there are weaknesses that contrast with the book's strengths. The book itself suffers from poor editing, and the narrow focus of his bibliography on military titles raises questions about the depth of knowledge informing his analysis. For these reasons, Paul Addison's superb <i>Churchill: The Unexpected Hero</i> is far superior as a short biography, but for those unable to locate a copy of it Keegan's book will fit the bill for anyone seeking a useful introduction to Churchill and his achievements.