Henry ‘Chips’ Channon: The Diaries (Volume 2)

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

The second volume of the remarkable, Sunday Times bestselling diaries of Chips Channon.

This second volume of the bestselling diaries of Henry ‘Chips’ Channon takes us from the heady aftermath of the Munich agreement, when the Prime Minister Chips so admired was credited with having averted a general European conflagration, through the rapid unravelling of appeasement, and on to the tribulations of the early years of the Second World War. It closes with a moment of hope, as Channon, in recording the fall of Mussolini in July 1943, reflects: ‘The war must be more than half over.’

For much of this period, Channon is genuinely an eye-witness to unfolding events. He reassures Neville Chamberlain as he fights for his political life in May 1940. He chats to Winston Churchill while the two men inspect the bombed-out chamber of the House of Commons a few months later. From his desk at the Foreign Office he charts the progress of the war. But with the departure of his boss ‘Rab’ Butler to the Ministry of Education, and Channon’s subsequent exclusion from the corridors of power, his life changes – and with it the preoccupations and tone of the diaries. The conduct of the war remains a constant theme, but more personal preoccupations come increasingly to the fore. As he throws himself back into the pleasures of society, he records his encounters with the likes of Noël Coward, Prince Philip, General de Gaulle and Oscar Wilde’s erstwhile lover Lord Alfred Douglas. He describes dinners with members of European royal dynasties, and recounts gossip and scandal about the great, the good and the less good. And he charts the implosion of his marriage and his burgeoning, passionate friendship with a young officer on Wavell’s staff.

These are diaries that bring a whole epoch vividly to life.

© Chips Channon 2021 (P) Penguin Audio 2021

Critics Review

  • This is a masterpiece about a period that fascinates me – a time machine that transports the reader back to British politics and high society at the end of the 1930s, as Europe stands on the brink of a catastrophe that will destroy the very world it describes.

    Daily Mail
  • Page for page, name for name, there is no one better than Chips Channon at the particular blend of insight, snobbery and self-regard that is the hallmark of really great diarists . . . Chips knew everyone, went everywhere, and spared nothing. Of Philip Kindersley, first husband of Oonagh Guinness, he writes, ‘A good-looking, almost dashing “Ya-hoo” . . . very common naked, which is such a test’. Of Queen Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, ‘She is well bred, kind, gentle and slack . . . She is fundamentally lazy, very lazy and charming . . . She will never be a great Queen for she will never be up in time!’ At nearly 1,000 pages, and with the broadest cast of characters, Chips is the clear winner!

    Independent Ireland
  • Even more gripping than the first volume . . . [Channon’s] record is of great value, not only for historical detail and literary flair, but because it shows why appeasement often feels right, and why it can be so dangerous.

    Daily Telegraph
  • Fascinating. Heffer’s meticulous and generous footnotes mean that Channon’s gossipy revelations are elevated into a serious work of history.

    New Statesman
  • Mr Heffer has undertaken a painstaking appraisal of the original manuscript . . . He has erred on the side of inclusion, excising little and allowing Channon to speak for himself . . . Mr Heffer has produced a monumental second volume to match his first. Clearly he has enjoyed his work marshalling the original manuscript and anyone interested in the social and political life of Britain of the period should enjoy his effort.

    The Critic

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