This account of Winston Churchill and his family is unlike any I have ever read. It gives a clear account of what life was really like in England under the Blitz, including an exhausting series of sleepless nights for the population (p. 225).

Reading this while under a stay-at-home order made it even more profound. Here’s how the Churchill family coped with similar circumstances:

While London braced for Hitler’s reprisal, Mary Churchill and her mother were savoring the peace of a warm summer night at Breccles Hall… where Mary was supposed to spend another few weeks….

Here, in these farmish lands [the Blitz] seemed especially remote…. The girls rode bicycles and horses, played tennis, swam, went to the movies, and danced with airmen at nearby RAF bases, occasionally bringing them back for the now-familiar “snogging” sessions in the hayloft….

The girls also resolved to learn the sonnets of William Shakespeare and to commit one to memory each day — a task at which they failed, though Mary would retain the ability to recite several for years afterward. (p. 193)

Britain in 1940 shared another phenomenon with the early days of the 2020 pandemic, as well: a shortage of toilet paper, affecting even the king:

A visiting American found that he could buy chocolate cake and lemon meringue pie at Selfridges, but cocoa was impossible to find. Shortages made some realms of hygiene more problematic…. At least one brand of toilet paper was also in perilously short supply, as the king himself discovered. He managed to sidestep this particular scarcity by arranging shipments direct from the British embassy in Washington, D.C. With kingly discretion, he wrote to his ambassador, “We are getting short of a certain type of paper which is made in America and is unprocurable here. A packet or two of 500 sheets at intervals would be most acceptable You will undersstand this and its name begins with B!” The paper in question was identified by historian Andrew Roberts as Bromo soft lavatory paper. (p. 245)

For another excellent biography covering Churchill’s early life, see Hero of the Empire.