Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister (Hardback)Nicholas Shakespeare (author)
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Selected as a Book of the Year 2017 in the Guardian
London, early May 1940: Britain is on the brink of war and Neville Chamberlain's government is about to fall. It is hard for us to imagine the Second World War without Winston Churchill taking over at the helm, but in Six Minutes in May, Nicholas Shakespeare shows how easily events could have gone in a different direction.
The first land battle of the war was fought in the far north, in Norway. It went disastrously for the Allies and many blamed Churchill. Yet weeks later he would rise to the most powerful post in the country, overtaking Chamberlain and the favourite to succeed him, Lord Halifax. It took just six minutes for MPs to cast the votes that brought down Chamberlain.
Shakespeare shows us both the dramatic action on the battlefield in Norway and the machinations and personal relationships in Westminster that led up to this crucial point. Uncovering fascinating new research and delving deep into the backgrounds of the key players, he has given us a new perspective on this critical moment in our history.
An award-winning novelist, biographer and historian, Nicholas Shakespeare's work includes the novels The Dancer Upstairs and Secrets of the Sea as well as acclaimed non-fiction including a biography of Bruce Chatwin and Priscilla.
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Number of pages: 528
Weight: 921 g
Dimensions: 240 x 162 x 45 mm
"A superbly written drama..Shakespeare's research is thorough and he has a novelist's flair for depicting the characters and motives of great and lesser men...Fascinating." - Book of the Week, The Times
"Riveting...never less than gripping. But the real delight of its book is the convincing, and often revelatory, portraits of the main protagonists." - Evening Standard
"Brilliant, meticulous...This scintillating joy of a book - with a military narrative of British shame as well handled as William Dalrymple's Return of a King, and a treatment of 20th-century British politics, romance, humiliation and desire as grandly realised as Anthony Powell's great novel sequence....Shakespeare's narrative is not just more reliable than Churchill's, but more fun." - Spectator
"Superb: far and away the best account of the moment which changed our national life and the world, and filled with extraordinary new details. Shakespeare brings a novelist's eye to the characters he writes about, but it is the extraordinary way he marshals his material, far more extensive than I've come across before, which makes this book quite simply magnificent." - John Simpson
"Of the abundant new books on the Second World War, Nicholas Shakespeare's Six Minutes in May...takes the prize. The familiar story of how Churchill unexpectedly became prime minister in 1940 has never been told so amusingly, nor in such detail" -- Simon Heffer * Daily Telegraph *
"Everyone delving into this riveting and rollicking account of the Chamberlain-Lord Halifax-Churchill succession will find special pleasure today in inhaling the rich mix of ambition and weakness, bravery and fecklessness, jealousy and sheer hatred, because the contemporary echoes are loud and irresistible... Nicholas Shakespeare achieves the remarkable feat of bringing tension to an old story by understanding the human drama...He has a novelist's feel for self-pity, jealousy and ambition. The story of Churchill's accession to power on the day that Hitler's armies entered the Low Countries and set course for France has never been infused with so much humanity." -- James Naughtie * New Statesman *
"Shakespeare brings both meticulous research and fictional artistry to illuminate the machinery of government under extreme stress and the abrasive conflict of large, self-confident personalities. It's a superb achievement." -- Ian McEwan
"The most thrilling book I have read for years." -- Keith Thomas
"Superb...Enthralling." * Daily Telegraph *
"Superb: he has pieced together the various sources (sometimes quite different in their accounts) and written what can almost be read as a detective story." -- Norman Stone * The Oldie *
"Nicholas Shakespeare's impeccably researched, coherent and revelatory explanation about how Churchill became Prime Minister at the exact time of Hitler's onslaught in the West is totally captivating. It will stand as the best account of those extraordinary few days for very many years." -- Andrew Roberts
"Magnificent... The book, though totally anchored in the facts, has a novelist's eye for feeling and atmosphere" * i *
"Utterly wonderful... It reads like a thriller" -- Peter Frankopan
"A superb work of history. Shakespeare has assumed nothing and allowed himself to be guided only by what a patient re-examination of the evidence-some of it new, much of it still surprisingly ill-digested until now- actually reveals. That is being an historian. The fact that he is also a novelist just means that it is very well written too, a thriller, in fact." -- Simon Green, Professor of Modern History, Leeds University
"Nicholas Shakespeare's Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister...is as gripping as a novel. Apart from being meticulously researched, thoroughly original and beautifully written, the book is an important reminder of the fact that the direction of history can change in a heartbeat" -- Peter Frankopan * History Today *
"Shakespeare is better known as a novelist than as a historian. This may change after his superb account of the under-examined Norwegian campaign, for which alone his book deserves to be read... Shakespeare is excellent in tracing the intricate manoeuvres ahead of the debate between groups of parliamentarians... Enthralling" -- David Lough * Daily Telegraph *
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