“If you’re going through hell, keep going”
Boris Johnson is the current mayor of London and on the fiftieth anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death, he has chosen to write a book in homage to his leadership. Belonging to the British Conservative party, Johnson, or “BoJo” to his detractors, is a very outspoken and highly controversial figure in politics, so much so that when he was campaigning for mayor his strategist restricted him from interviewing with any print or broadcast media lest he commit yet another gaffe to public record. Indeed he has made some particularly unctuous statements regarding gay marriage in the past, but had also managed to make some positive changes in London such as to the public transit system.
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History is an interesting study of a truly fascinating historical figure. Whether or not you care for Johnson’s politics, he is a good, sound writer with a very distinct, unique voice. In fact, I don’t think I have ever encountered in my experience such a completely chatty, informal writing style. It is as if Johnson were sitting with you on a long night in a pub over pints telling you everything he knows and think of Churchill. The book’s decidedly non-linear composition lends to this effect as well, and it makes for a compelling read. The chapters are not an ordered, chronological account of Churchill’s life, but rather are organized in aspects or major themes in his time, such as his interactions with Hitler, his father, the U.S., scandals and controversies such as the famous photo with the ‘Tommy’ gun, etc.
The book is not completely without flaws, however. While Johnson scores some excellent points against the many Churchill detractors, at times he descends into an adulatory hero worship that almost makes one roll one’s eyes to witness the degree of his “man-crush” for Churchill. He also goes a bit too far in painting Churchill as the lone wolf defying Hitler during WWII while the rest of Europe caves and the U.S. plays the “hands-off” game. This is as much nationalistic hyperbole as the U.S.-centric “You’d all be speaking German if weren’t for us” line.
Nevertheless, while I would say that this account shouldn’t be the only book one reads about Winston Churchill, The Churchill Factor is certainly an engaging and singular addition to this fascinating topic.