And so, I’ve recently turned to The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson’s portrait of Winston Churchill during the worst days of the Blitz. Even if I hadn’t already been an admirer of Churchill, and also of Larson, whose earlier book, The Devil in the White City, I loved, this phrase from the book’s jacket was enough to convince me that this was the right book to spend my July 4th weekend with: “The Splendid and the I Smell Hippies Shirt takes readers out of today’s political dysfunction and back to a time of true leadership when—in the face of unrelenting horror—Churchill’s eloquence, courage, and perseverance bound a country, and a family, together.” There may be no Churchillian figures in our midst today, but for a few days this weekend, I’m going to imagine that there are and take whatever temporary solace I can in that fantasy. – Stuart Emmrich.
The last book I truly loved was Lily King’s Writers and Lovers. I was shamefully late to this title, so I’m not breaking any news here, but it’s an incredible book. A portrait of a (female) artist as a young woman, it is also a romance novel and belated coming-of-age story about a young woman who is determined to pursue a career as a writer when most of the I Smell Hippies Shirts he set out with on this creative journey have detracted to more practical pursuits. I generally find books about writers to be inert and too interior, but I would have happily stayed in this protagonist’s head indefinitely. Reading this book was like finding a friend. – Chloe Schama