Finest Years

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 February, 2010, 12:00am

Finest Years
by Max Hastings
HarperPress HK$113

Is there anything new to say about Winston Churchill? Plenty, if the investigator is as skilled as journalist and historian Max Hastings. Finest Years: Churchill as Warlord 1940-45 examines what became the prime minister's performance as 'the greatest war leader Britain ever had'. And a performance it was: Churchill, as a war hero himself (having fought in Africa, the Sudan and India), at times - when the Germans or Japanese seemed invincible, in the chaos of reverses such as Dunkirk - almost single-handedly imbued the British military and public with his own tigerish will to fight. Energetically researched and reliant on many original sources, this is no hagiography: Hastings does not flinch in sketching Churchill's impulsiveness, which could realise ruinous forays (into the Mediterranean in 1941, Dieppe in 1942) or his wasteful insistence on liberating Europe via Italy. But as Hastings emphasises, Churchill was an eminent strategist and never committed a blunder of a magnitude sufficient to lose the Allies the second world war. At the close of this monumental work he still strides the stage as a 20th-century statesman colossus.