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Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister
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Nicholas Shakespeare
Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister by Nicholas Shakespeare at Abbey's Bookshop,

Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime Minister

Nicholas Shakespeare



British & Irish history;
20th century history: c 1900 to c 2000;
Second World War;
Political leaders & leadership


528 pages

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London, early May 1940. Britain is on the brink of war and Neville Chamberlain's government is about to fall. It's hard for us to imagine WWII without Winston Churchill taking over at the helm, but here 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, as well as the favourite to succeed him, Lord Halifax.

It took just six minutes for MPs to cast their votes to bring down Chamberlain. Shakespeare shows us the dramatic action on the battlefield in Norway, and the machinations and personal relationships in Westminster, that led to this crucial point.

Uncovering fascinating new research and delving deep into the backgrounds of the key players, this book provides a new perspective on this critical moment in our history.

By:   Nicholas Shakespeare
Imprint:   Harvill
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 234mm,  Width: 153mm,  Spine: 38mm
Weight:   775g
ISBN:   9781846559730
ISBN 10:   1846559731
Series:   Everyman's Library Classics
Pages:   528
Publication Date:   October 2017
Audience:   College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  General/trade ,  Primary ,  Undergraduate
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Nicholas Shakespeare was born in 1957. The son of a diplomat, much of his youth was spent in the Far East and South America. His books have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Vision of Elena Silves (winner of the Somerset Maugham Award), Snowleg, The Dancer Upstairs, Secrets of the Sea, Inheritance and Priscilla. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He currently lives in Oxford.

History books should give us insight and information, surprise and entertainment, and allow us to see the world, an incident or a character differently. Nicholas Shakespeare's Six Minutes in May delivers in abundance. -- Anthony Sattin * Observer, Best Books of 2017 * Using new evidence with a novelist's feeling for personality and atmosphere -- John Gray * Guardian, Best Books of 2017 * 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, Best History Books of 2017 * Nicholas Shakespeare's Six Minutes in May: How Churchill Unexpectedly Became Prime 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, Best History Books of 2017 * An eloquent study in how quickly the political landscape can change -- and history with it * The Economist, Books of the Year 2017 * 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 * 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 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 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 * 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 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 * One of the very best history books I have ever read. * Duff and Nonsense * An eloquent study in how quickly the political landscape can change-and history with it. * The Economist *

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