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  • Churchill & Son

  • By: Josh Ireland
  • Narrated by: Andy Mace
  • Length: 13 hrs and 6 mins
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars (16 ratings)

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Summary

A moving and revealing new portrait of Winston Churchill through the most important relationship in his life - that with his son, Randolph.

Few fathers and sons can ever have been so close as Winston Churchill and his only son, Randolph. Both showed flamboyant impatience, reckless bravery and generosity of spirit. The glorious and handsome Randolph was a giver and devourer of pleasure, a man who exploded into rooms, trailing whisky tumblers and reciting verbatim whole passages of classic literature. But while Randolph inherited many of his fathers' talents, he also inherited all of his flaws. Randolph was his father only more so: fiercer, louder, more out of control. Hence father and son would be so very close, and so liable to explode at each other.

Winston's closest ally during the wilderness years of the 1930s, Randolph would himself become a war hero, serving with the SAS in the desert and Marshal Tito's guerrillas in Yugoslavia, a friend of press barons and American presidents alike, and a journalist with a 'genius for uncovering secrets', able to secure audiences with everyone from Kaiser Wilhelm to General Franco and Guy Burgess.

But Randolph's political career never amounted to anything. As much as he idolised Winston and never lost faith in his father during the long, solitary years of Winston's decline, he was never able to escape from the shadow cast by Britain's great hero. In his own eyes, and most woundingly of all his father's, his life was a failure. Winston, ever consumed by his own sense of destiny, allowed his own ambitions to take priority over Randolph's. The world, big as it was, only had space for one Churchill. Instead of the glory he believed was his birthright, Randolph died young, his body rotted by resentment and drink, before he could complete his father's biography.

A revealing new perspective on the Churchill myth, this intimate story reveals the lesser-seen Winston Churchill: reading Peter Rabbit books to his children, admonishing Eton schoolmasters and using decanters and wine glasses to re-fight the Battle of Jutland at the table. Amid a cast of personalities who defined an era - PG Wodehouse, Nancy Astor, The Mitfords, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Lord Beaverbrook, William Randolph Hearst, Oswald Mosley, Graham Greene, Duff and Diana Cooper, the Kennedys, Charlie Chaplin, and Lloyd George - Churchill & Son is the lost story of a timeless father-son relationship.

©2021 Josh Ireland (P)2021 Hodder & Stoughton Ltd

Critic reviews

"In this fascinating account of the turbulent Churchill father-and-son relationship, Josh Ireland shows how central Winston and Randolph were to each other's lives" (Andrew Roberts) 

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"an asphyxiating charisma"

This is an excellent and meticulous account of (essentially although there’s plenty more covered) the explosive relationship between Winston Churchill and Randolph, his only son. The two were bound by a far from conventional intense love: Winston was Randolph’s god; they inhabited the same mental space. Their titanic and cruel rows provoked apoplectic rages bordering on madness, but their volcanic love for one another was more passionate and all-consuming than for anyone else, including their spouses and children. (Clementine and her daughters vied jealously and unsuccessfully for Winston’s love and attention).
Determined not to replicate the faults of his own distant, cruelly hypercritical and overbearing father, Winston poured into Randolph what became a toxic mix of colossal hope, ambition and worshipful adoration. Thus Randolph grew from a precociously promising youth to a man unable to carve a permanent position for himself, incapable of being the husband and father he might have wished to be, a prodigious drinker and smoker (100 expensive cigarettes a day), and a gambler (a skill Winston had thought a good idea to teach his young boy). His mountainous debts were constantly paid off by Winston; his consumption of alcohol exceeded the truly staggering amounts downed by his father, making their rages and quarrels frequently especially violent and hurtful. His shockingly obnoxious tirades were unforgiveable and at one stage Clementine instructed her staff never to leave her alone with him.
Winston too comes out of all this as fatally flawed despite his dynamism, drive and charisma: he condoned if not encouraged his daughter-in-law's sleeping with important men during the war so she could feed him back useful information; he was monumentally greedy for power and food, drunken, selfish and demanding (insisting on 2 full hot baths a day whilst King George led the nation with his 3inch baths during the war).

The massive Churchill archive must be a biographer’s dream; Josh Ireland has woven all his sources into a crisply written, riveting drama as powerful as any Greek tragedy. Randolph’s end, obese, his liver ruined, is truly tragic. Perhaps Winston’s most surprising love was for his budgie Toby who accompanied him in later life (with cage, grit and cuttlefish) on trips abroad. But unlike the glittering cage Winston built for his son, there was escape for Toby who one day flew off. never to return.

It’s a tremendous book, but oh, the narration! How CAN the narrator mispronounce Clementine many 100s of times? As authors discussing their books about Clementine make clear, it’s ClemenTEEN. Key figures are mispronounced: Duncan Sandys is not Sandies; McClean is not toothpaste, but McKLANE; the narrator needs to check on Baliol… the list goes on. He frequently gets the stress wrong in words : absented, subaltern, gangrene, valet are just a few; and surely he knows ascerbic isn’t askerbic?? Also I could have done without the Churchillian oratorical mimicry for everything Winston said or wrote - FAR too much and it doesn’t allow for the nuances of Winston’s feelings as it’s all presented in the same caricatured voice.
So a low score for a ruinous narration; top marks for content.

2 people found this helpful

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Josh really needs to work on his female voices!

I couldn't put this down. The story was facinating!
I thought that all sources on Churchill had pretty much covered the man. However, the insights gained through the letters between Winston and Randolph provided a new dimension to his personality. I knew a little about his and Clementine's relationship from TV documentaries etc but I knew nothing about his relationships with his children. A thoroughly enjoyable listen. I did however laugh out loud at Josh's female voices. His performance was excellent otherwise.

1 person found this helpful

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Fabulous

If you, as I , have a wide collection of Churchill's biographies and anecdotes, this is by far, beside Jenkins book, the best. And the narrative, the voices he assembles...a true masterpiece! so, what are you waiting for? Action today@

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