Monday, October 06, 2014

Book Notes: King, Churchill, de Gaulle.

Went recently to the launch of my friend Ray Argyle's new book The Paris Game (from Dundurn Press). I had thought it covered some detail of  France in the Second World War. In fact it's an ambitious survey of Charles De Gaulle's campaign to save something of France from the wreckage of 1940 and even more, to reposition France among the major Allied powers during the rest of the war and afterwards.

English-language works on this subject often joke about "the cross of Lorraine" that Churchill and Roosevelt had to bear because of de Gaulle, but Argyle, a francophile Torontonian, is mostly sympathetic in his treatment of de Gaulle, and makes particular note of Roosevelt's antipathy to de Gaulle. Among many Canadian connections, he notes the moment in 1940 when de Gaulle concluded that defeat was total and resolved to retire to private life in Canada.

Then the other night my local historical society hosted Terry Reardon speaking of his new book, Winston Churchill and Mackenzie King: So Similar, So Different, also from Dundurn. I'd have said much more different than similar (!), but this too is an ambitious study. Churchill worship is endemic, King worship not so much, but Reardon is interesting on both men, who turn out to have been precisely the same age. They first met in Toronto soon after the Boer War when young celebrity Churchill was promoting a book. King, then a rising civil servant, arrived at Churchill's hotel at 11 am, found Churchill deep into the champagne, and disapproved. He came to admire eventually, but it was not the easiest of relationships, and Reardon raises many points about Churchill's imperialism and King's resistance to it.

Reardon is a retired banker and pillar of the Churchill Society of Toronto.  Argyle is a retired PR executive. Historical talent is where you find it.
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