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November 2, 2012 / CB

Book Review: 40 Ways to Look at Winston Churchill, by Gretchen Rubin

Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long LifeForty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill: A Brief Account of a Long Life by Gretchen Rubin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an interesting concept for a biography. Rather than a chronological review of Churchill’s life, Rubin comes at the various perspectives and thoughts on him from 40 different points of view (sort of). This allows her to present a multifarious method of considering one of the most prominent people of the 20th century. The downside to this idea is that she drifts into repetition more than a few times. After the first few chapters, the reader has a good sketch of the major events in Churchill’s life, and so I think Rubin could have avoided rehashing them over and again.

All the same, this was an interesting book. I learned a lot about Churchill, having never read a biography of him before, but it didn’t feel like a textbook. He was certainly not as heroic as many people think he was, and yet he was also exactly what they believe. The contradictions in his personal life and legacy are profound, and simply have to be taken as they are; there is no accounting for them. To paraphrase the author, Churchill was greater than all of us, but also exactly like us. I especially enjoyed Chapter 36, in which Rubin explains how his life so perfectly fits the arc of a literary tragic hero.

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