“I am easily satisfied
Books for Ferocious Times &
5 Perfect Places to Read Everything Churchill
1. ‘Churchill’s Britain’
Not merely another Churchill biography, Peter Clark’s Churchill’s Britain follows the footsteps of Britain’s quasi-mythical Prime Minister on a journey to the places in Britain and Ireland he visited and returned to during his lifetime. With its regional maps, the clothbound guide tempts the reader to retrace the routes that led Churchill from such fix-points as Blenheim Palace, his place of birth, Chartwell, his beloved countryside home, and the War Rooms in Central London, to places of his education and political life, but – most charmingly – to the more unknown locations of his favourite tobacco shop, fishing spots, and the hills where he set-up his easel to paint. Leading the reader from the Antrim Coast to the Isle of Wright, the pretty little volume is the perfect companion for a rainy afternoon spent planning your next endeavour to British sights.
A mere 90 minutes by car from London, this historic thatched Cottage is the perfect place for a cosy weekend spent alternating hours of fire-side reading with long country walks. Tucked away in an idyllic garden, the 400-year-old structure with original features such as exposed stone walls and old timber beams delights with hidden luxuries such as underfloor heating and luxury beds in the lovely two bedrooms.
Sitting between the well-stocked bookstores of nearby Oxford and the charming pubs and restaurants of the Cotswolds, Greenside Cottage offers instant country-side bliss for all the city mice who dare not stray too far from town. The pretty kitchen with its Victorian dining table invites days of slow roasting and extended meals made from the fresh produce of the nearby farmers’-markets. Picture-perfect.
2. Eight Days at Yalta
A weathered chronicler of British history and its global contexts, Diana Preston has this year gifted her readers with a vivid account of the eight days in February 1945, when Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin convened at the Crimean resort of Yalta to strategize on the final defeat of Nazi-Germany, negotiate the outlines of its occupation and draft the constitution of the United Nations. Recounting the practical issues involved in the intense back-and-forth of the inter-Allied diplomacy that paved the way to this summit, Preston’s minutely researched and well-written account succeeds in turning one of the most discussed events in recent world history into a fascinating story to be discovered anew. With Stalin reluctant to move beyond familiar territories, Churchill and the chronically ill Roosevelt took upon themselves the perilous transcontinental journeys through the hunting grounds of German submarines in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean sea. A likely candidate for addition of the infamous note saying ‘soon to be a major motion picture’ on its next print run, it is definitely a book that is hard to put down.
The Miller’s House at Froe
Where better to dive into an extended read on Churchill’s still tangible influence on the course of global politics and the key role that the Atlantic waters took in their making than next to a fire overlooking the waves along the British coast? The glorious tree-lined creek running at the feet of Miller’s House that sits at the tip of Cornwall’s scenic Roseland Peninsula would have been to Churchill’s liking. With its open-plan kitchen, streamlined design, wood burner and open fireplace, it is the prefect abode for a hibernal break from the city.
Afternoon walks around the mill pool, or – via costal footpaths – on the nearby beautiful beaches, provide ample space to breath in the fresh air. With its three en suite double bedrooms, the house is ideally suited for groups of up to six, and the large dinner table, with its mid-century modern design and endlessly comfortable Eames shell chairs, just the place to ferociously strategize your plans for the next year.
3. ‘A Life in the News’
Over the past four years, the interplay – both good and bad – of political power and the media has itself become a topic of constant discussion in the free press. Richard Toye’s biography of Churchill’s Life in the News looks at this in fact very traditional relationship in the particularly rich and convoluted case of Winston Churchill the journalist, prolific writer and incessant self-publicist. With more than 40 books – among them a six-volume history of the second world war with distinct attention to his own role in it – and several thousand speeches, Churchill’s written output and its contribution to the towering image that shapes British politics to this day was considerable. Still hot off the press, Toye’s biography brings Churchill the newsman and shrewd influencer of the media into focus. Carefully researched and engagingly written, the book’s account of the keen publicity work of Britain’s war-time Prime Minister reveals a Churchill whom, despite his constant presence in the newspapers, we are yet to get to know in all detail.
The luxurious conversion of this former village chapel makes this Sussex retreat a veritable gem for getting away from it all – less then two hours from bustling London. Sitting next to a pleasant little mill stream, the spacious, open-plan downstairs with its high ceilings, a generously equipped, American-style kitchen and New England style décor throughout makes a place for all the family – including the dog. Upstairs, the two bedrooms – one double and one twin – invite to spend Sunday morning in bed.
Lodging in the charming traditional village of Bosham, this , however, might turn out to be a tall order. An area of rich history, leading up to today all the way from Roman times, this part of Sussex is famous for its multitude of scenic moorings busy with sailboats and marine flair that will make you want to prolong your stay – or come back another time.
4. ‘Painting on the French Riviera’
That Churchill took to painting in 1915 when he was forced to resign from wartime government and believed his political career had ended is well known. It was a habit he would keep for life and, since it resulted in a large number of picturesque landscape scenes, one that added further to the notion of Churchill the Renaissance man. Based on the French Riviera, the London artist Paul Rafferty discovered the later part of Churchill’s oils in France in 2008 and spent the past decade studying the more than 130 of his canvases produced during the Prime Minister’s retirement away from Britain. Newly discovering the many charming locations Churchill selected for his compositions, the amply illustrated volume with a foreword by the Prince of Wales has been flying off the shelves since its publication this October, and – hint hint – if you still can get one, makes a most lovely Christmas present!
This stylishly renovated Georgian town house has plenty of room for eight, but this winter having a little more space to fan out among a group of only six is the way to go. Number Six is the perfect find for a change of scene – especially as this one is such a lovely one. With large sash windows on every level, the house’s light and airy atmosphere is a treat on winter days. The spacious sitting room with original marble fireplace and comfortable sofas invites to lounge away the day in the company of a good book or wine-paired conversation, while the stylish kitchen makes preparing dinner a popular part of the day.
With its scenic canal right in town and the beautiful beaches of the Devon Riviera nearby, the historic town of Totnes makes for a beautiful day out – but bets are on that with such a perfect home for the weekend at hand, you might just want to stay inside.
5. ‘The Glamour Boys’
If the title makes you suspect another book on the lately so fashionable again ‘Bright Young Things’ you are not entirely off topic. Yet the story of this group of indeed bright and brilliant young men, was – in addition to privileged lifestyle and outrageous parties – one of service for Queen and country. It is the account of a group of queer British MPs in their late 20s, who regularly visited Berlin in the 1930s to indulge in the notorious nightlife of what, at the time, was the European capital of libertinism.
Among the first to warn Parliament about the fascist movement Hitler formed around him, they vehemently spoke out against their government’s policy of appeasing the German chancellor. Hoping to discredit their revolt, Neville Chamberlain duped them ‘the Glamour Boys’. Their story has been told before, but based on careful study of surviving evidence, Chris Bryant tells it in unknown clarity. The book brings to light how the toxic homophobia of Britain’s leading political circles prevented an early interference to Hitler’s rise to power, and how crucial the integrity and bravery of these Parliamentarian rebels really was in enabling Churchill to lead Britain into war against Nazi-Germany and defeat its threat against humanity.
Part of the commanding estate of Compton Castle, this eighteenth-century gate lodge is the perfect hide-away to contemplate the greater picture of things from behind the scenes. Offering views that survey the beauty of Dorset’s broad acres, the neo-Gothic cottage orné with its stained glass windows and fortified charm resonates with the wit of fanciful men like Horace Walpole, Churchill’s most glamorous predecessor as Britain’s Prime Minister. Explore the formal garden of the estate, and the surrounding lakes and woodlands – tinted in golden-glowing hues this time of year – before settling next to a crackling fire. Sitting on the border of Somerset and Dorset, Windsor Lodge is the ideal spot for enchanting country walks and discovery of unknown gems among the rich historic architecture of South West England.