Finest Hour 174, Autumn 2016
Leslie Hossack, Charting Churchill: An Architectural Biography of Sir Winston Churchill, 2016, CAD $196.49. Available exclusively online at www.chartingchurchill.com
Review by Stefan Buczacki
Professor Stefan Buczacki is the author of Churchill and Chartwell: The Untold Story of Churchill’s Houses and Gardens (2007). His latest book is My Darling Mr. Asquith: The Extraordinary Life and times of Venetia Stanley.
There is a late nineteenth-century volume in my library in which the author begins his introduction thus: “There are already so many books in the world that it is incumbent upon anyone writing another to justify its existence.” It is a maxim I have used many times, but when Leslie Hossack’s book arrived on my desk, my first impression was that this glorious and sumptuous work surely had no need to defend itself. It is without doubt the most beautiful book ever published about Churchill’s life; it has the finest photographs, and it ventures down some seldom explored by-ways. And it is innovative in offering us such unexpected images as those of his tailor’s premises and his London wine merchants, as well as of more familiar and expected places: the Houses of Parliament, Chartwell, and Blenheim Palace.
So much for this large, splendid, if costly volume and what it is; but now for what it is not. It is certainly not, as Ronald Cohen in his foreword suggests, the first to tell the Churchill story “via the buildings…which were part of his life.” Nor does the book even cover all his residences, because there are several inexplicable exclusions. For instance, his first, albeit brief, childhood home at 48 Charles Street in Mayfair was arguably the most attractive of all the town