Churchill 2.0: a man for all times

Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History, Riverhead Books, London, 2014

Sean Jacobs

At first I groaned when, browsing the bookstore shelves, my eyes first caught Boris Johnson’s biography of Winston Churchill.

Surely, I thought, the great man needs no more testaments. Millions of words written by Churchill himself, and prolific writers like Martin Gilbert and Roy Jenkins, have entombed his rightful and unmatched place in not just English speaking but global folklore.

I also fear that many now see Churchill not as ‘The Last Lion’ – the title of William Manchester’s thick trilogy of biographies – but ‘the exhausted lion’, struggling for relevance in the restless modern Western democracy.

Johnson’s mural of Churchill, however, is refreshing and current. He has commendably produced a queer-eye-for-the-straight guy makeover of Churchill for modern times. Snappy paragraphs, a good turn of phrase and solid depth combine delivering Churchill to the distracted, semi-interested or younger reader.

‘He is so obviously a character that should appeal to young people today,’ writes Johnson. ‘He was eccentric, over the top, camp, with his own special trademark clothes – and a thoroughgoing genius.’

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