When Lions Roar by Thomas Maier is definitely the most daunting nonfiction book I’ve ever read. It’s also one of my favorites. At 750 pages (640 once you account for the notes and other supplements at the end), this book will take more than a few sittings to get through. I read it in bits and pieces over the course of about two months, and that’s how I’d recommend reading this book. It’s not a page-turner in the sense that a thriller would be, but I constantly found myself deciding to read to the end of a section and then reading several sections past that before I put the book down.
The book tells of the political lives of the Churchills and the Kennedys, as well as their overlapping social circles, from just before World War II to 1970. The “main characters” are Winston Churchill and son Randolph, as well as Joe Kennedy and his son John. It was interesting to see how much the same people kept popping up in relation to the main characters. This book does an excellent job of building the relationships between the four men, using their interactions with each other and with their similar social circles to illustrate each politician. My favorite part of this book was the beginning, as WWII is looming, when the book is mainly about Winston Churchill and Joe Kennedy. I’d never felt a burning desire to learn much more about these figures, but now I’d love to read something more in-depth about each of them, especially Churchill’s role in politics before WWII.
My only point of contention with this book is that it does the occasional time jump, or it’ll talk about 5 years of Churchills and then go back to the same starting point for the Kennedys, and I lost track a few times. Also, just a tip, don’t look at the photos in the middle until you’re done with the book. Or at least don’t read the captions. I “spoiled” some events (though if you’re familiar with the history then you’d probably already know what’s to come) and I wish I hadn’t. Similarly, don’t Google people to see what they look like without being prepared to shield your eyes from any death dates or new spouses. I did appreciate having photos in the book, though, since the descriptions of people made me curious about their actual appearances.
I recommend this book to anyone with time on their hands – not necessarily all at once, just twenty minutes a day or so (but don’t blame me if you find it hard to put the book down)- or an interest in the Churchills or the Kennedys. I really enjoyed the experience and thought it was well worth the hours I spent reading.
5 out of 5 stars