History War

Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought us Back from the Brink – Anthony McCarten

10 March 2019
Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought us Back from the Brink Book Cover Darkest Hour: How Churchill Brought us Back from the Brink
Anthony McCarten
Viking Publishing

May, 1940. Britain is at war, European democracies are falling rapidly and the public are unaware of this dangerous new world. Just days after his unlikely succession to Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, faces this horror - and a sceptical King and a party plotting against him. He wonders how he can capture the public mood and does so, magnificently, before leading the country to victory.

It is this fascinating period that Anthony McCarten captures in this deeply researched, gripping day-by-day (and often hour-by-hour) narrative. In doing so he revises the familiar view of Churchill - he made himself into the iconic figure we remember and changed the course of history, but through those turbulent and dangerous weeks he was plagued by doubt, and even explored a peace treaty with Nazi Germany. It's a scarier, and more human story, than has ever been told.


When we think of a strong leader we imagine them in control of their domain. What is truly remarkable about Winston Churchill is that heading into his darkest hour, he had to fight battles from all sides, obviously the German forces, but also from appeasers within his own party, Chamberlain and Halifax, and his early relationship with King George VI. This book tells the story of those relationships, his challenges and his uncertainties in superb detail which is wonderfully emotive.

The book conveys Churchill as a man with demons, with doubts, often without social grace, but when required, he had that iron will to stand up for what he believed and articulate it so well. The book gives a very atmospheric account of those days in deciding how to take Britain forward and the dialogue is fantastic, albeit we know Churchill was responsible for some of the greatest speeches and quotes we have ever heard.

“We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!”

It is not surprising that Churchill dwelt on the themes of failure because he experienced many previously in his career. What is inspiring, however, is how he managed to overcome those and appear confident in managing the national mood in a time of war.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
“Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

This book is a wonderful account of Churchill’s life during the war years and the internal and external battles he had to confront during his darkest hour. He had to tackle his opponents with the conviction that he and the nation could succeed. I would recommend reading this book.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley peter@thereadingdesk.com

Find Reviews
High Quality Honest Reviews
Latest Tweets