The Gathering Storm


If you condensed The Second World War, Volume 1: The Gathering Storm into one sentence, it would be: “See, I told you so!”  Churchill’s Theme of the Volume is

How the English-speaking peoples
through their unwisdom,
carelessness, and good nature
allowed the wicked to rearm.”   

I am ambivalent about Sir Winston.  He sounded the warnings, raised a ruckus and was unconcerned about opinion polls and minority viewpoints.  Sadly, what he predicted came to pass.  Reading the section on German rearmament and European appeasement is an exercise in frustration.  Thank God for Winston Churchill.

And yet…  There is a know-it-all attitude that I find off-putting.  Too many details included for vindication’s sake.  Too many speeches reproduced verbatim.  What kept me going through the pages was his command of English: the satisfying sentences, the robust words, the grand oratory.   

…amid a ceaseless chatter of well-meant platitudes…

Death stands at attention, obedient, expectant, ready to serve,
ready to shear away the peoples en masse

British fatuity and fecklessness which,
though devoid of guile, was not devoid of guilt…

So they go on in strange paradox,
decided only to be undecided,
resolved to be irresolute,
adamant for drift,
solid for fluidity,
all-powerful to be impotent.

One can hardly find a more perfect specimen of humbug and hypocrisy…

I always went to bed at least for one hour
as early as possible in the afternoon
and exploited to the full my happy gift
of falling almost immediately into deep sleep.
By this means I was able to press a day and a half’s work into one.


Not everyone has time for chunky books: voila the DVD!  Albert Finney excels as Winston Churchill.  There are moments of mild vulgarity: some backside nudity (of an old man getting into a bathtub – ewww!) and some tacky language. But the movie tells the story of the people who made history.  I loved how Churchill composed speeches while he dressed and shaved, the interactions between Clementine and Winston, the long-suffering private secretary, the pontificating in Parliament, the scenes at Chartwell.  If you love England, if you love the BBC, you will like The Gathering Storm.


12 thoughts on “The Gathering Storm

  1. I did not know about the DVD!  Would you believe that I have all 6 volumes Churchill wrote about the war, yet I’ve never read them?  I have read and enjoyed William Manchester’s excellent biography of Churchill, and  the biography Mary Churchill Soames (Winston’s youngest child) wrote about Clementine Churchill.  Churchill did have an awful lot of quirks and did appear to be something of a know-it-all, but he also was (I think) one of those rare individuals to whom God has given the ability to “see beyond the horizon.”  Not in terms of seeing into the future, but in terms of being able to think actions and consequences through to the most logical conclusion, based on a knowledge of how most humans act.  It gives the appearance of being able to predict the future, but is really the result of a thinker – an “ideas” type of person.I’m going to look for that movie.  And I’m going to try to read that set of books in the near future.  AND I’m going to try to find out whatever happened to the third volume of Manchester’s Churchill bio – the one he commissioned a FL journalist to finish when he realized that he himself would not live to finish it.Thanks so much for the review!  (And you should post it tomorrow at Semicolon’s Saturday Review of books.)

  2. @LauraLLD – What a refreshing comment.  Thanks!  As I wrote this post, I doubted anyone was interested in WW2.  I love your phrase “see beyond the horizon”.   In my ambivalence, I definitely tilt toward liking Churchill.  He was such a remarkable man.  I much prefer a confident man who occasionally gets a few things wrong to a wishy-washy hold-the-finger-to-the-wind indecisive hand-wringer. Laura, the 6 volume set has sat on my bookshelves for more than 15 years.  I will have to push myself to get through all 6 volumes but I am determined!  It just takes so much time. I saw that there is an abridged volume available.  But, on principle, I hate abridgements.  I just acquired the Manchester biography and am set to read that.  I would love to read Soames’ biography of her mother.  Thank you for mentioning that.  If you find out about the third volume, please let me know!Another biography on my TBR list is written by Stalin’s daughter about him.  She took her mother’s name and I guess it is difficult to find. 

  3. Well. if you decide to host a read-along of Churchill’s 6 vols., count me in!  Or if you decide to do it on your own and want a partner to discuss material read at regular intervals, I’ll be happy to commit to doing that with you, too.The journalist Manchester tapped to finish the third volume of the Churchill biography is Paul Reid.  But I could find nothing at Amazon – or through Google – other than the few original articles (back in 2000, I think) stating that Mr. Reid would finish the biography.I’d love to know the title of the Stalin bio.  I really like biographies and usually try to read at least one or two a year.

  4. I haven’t read Churchill’s six volumes on WWII, nor have I read the four, I think, volume History of the English Speaking People that I have on my shelf. However, I may someday.I have watched the DVD series you lauded in your last paragraph, and I say “Amen!” I found myself halfway in love with Mr. Churchill after watching that series, even  though he was shown in his altogether for a brief moment (ewwwtoo). I’m sure he would have been difficult to live with, and he was an irritating voice pre-WWII with all his “war-mongering”. But he was a fascinating man, wasn’t he?

  5. I’ve been browsing through your blog this evening looking for an old post…I think it was you that posted about an online book exchange??  Do you remember that?  Do you have the link?I must tell you…In our town we have to pay $75.00/year for a library card from the neighboring town.  Our’s expired a month ago.   I’ve come to a conclusion in the last 15 minutes or so here at Magistra Mater…I’ve got to get it renewed!  What’s a homeschooler doing without a library card anyway??!!  My son and I are just starting Ken Burn’s documentary on the Civil War…when we get to WWII in our history book we just may have to check this movie out.

  6. If you are ever in mid-Missouri, plan to visit the Churchill museum on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton.  Churchill gave his famous “iron curtain” speech there, and there are wonderful exhibits, newly renovated, about Churchill’s life from birth to death with an emphasis on his visit to Fulton, of course.  There is also a church, St. Mary Aldermanbury, that was destroyed in WWII and moved and rebuilt stone by stone on the campus.  Also, you can see a large piece of the Berlin Wall.  If I recall correctly, when we were there at Christmastime, it cost $26 for six people (two adults, two students, and two seniors) to attend, so it really was very reasonably priced.  Well worth the visit.  Oh, and there is a fun restaurant not too far away called Sir Winston’s that we enjoyed.  The service was a little slow, but the food was pretty good.

  7. @toomanyhats – I linked to Paperbackswap in my Saturday post (today’s).  It would be hard to have to pay $75 every year for library privileges.  My, my.  There are many  online opportunities, but I am no fan of reading from a screen.  I have found that since I’ve joined Paperbackswap I use my library less often.  If you need help setting up an account or tips on how to use it, send me a message.  I’d be glad to give you a hand.

  8. Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog.  You will not be disappointed, I think, by any of those books. (I sincerely wish Andrea Levy would write another book.)So, by way of a thank you, I’ll recommend a title for your WWII reading program–The Approaching Storm, by Nora Waln.  This is non-fiction, written by an American woman (married to a British man) who lived in Nazi Germany  between 1935 and 1939.  She was a journalist, and her attempts to understand what was happening to Germany and why the Germans behaved as they did is unemotional and objective–as little journalism is today.  She knew Germany was dangerous and saw the war coming from the “inside”–this book was published, in fact, in 1939.  Nora Waln’s earlier book, The House of Exile, about her life in China up to the time of the Boxer Rebellion is terrific, too.I wrote about House of Exile: only briefly about The Approaching Storm in this post: wasn’t blogging very consistly when I read it, but it’s worth a look if you can find a copy.  Nora Waln is intriguing.

  9. I don’t think this book is my cup of tea, but it sounds interesting as I don’t know a whole lot about Churchill.  I’m more likely to watch the DVD, though the nude backside…ew!  But I bet it’s not as bad as the disturbing image I wish I could forget from the movie “The Piano!”Serena posted the link to your review on War Through the Generations:

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