Today is I think a good day to remember Ronald Cartland, since it is the hundred-and-first anniversary of his birth in 1907. Although I had run across his name in my Churchill-related reading as one of the group of Conservative MPs in the 1930s who criticized the policy of appeasement, he only really stood out for me -- as I suspect he may have for many people -- after I read Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson (2007), in which he is clearly the author's tragic hero.
Ronald is the tragic hero in this book too, as you'd expect for a volume the full title of which is "Ronald Cartland by His Sister." His sister is "that" Barbara Cartland, not yet the incredibly prolific romance novelist she would become, but already by 1942 a published author of some renown (Churchill himself contributed a brief preface to this volume). Ronald and his sister were close, growing up in difficult circumstances, and this is a loving and affectionate tribute from a grieving sister. It's not a whitewash, however, and readers will come away with a relatively full picture of the man's political and personal life.
Readers who come to Cartland because of his role in the appeasement debate may be surprised by how little space that occupies in this book. The representative of an urban constituency and a self-declared member of the left wing of the Conservative Party, a significant amount of Cartland's short time as an MP was actually spent advancing the cause of government relief for economically-depressed areas. It's only toward the latter parts of the book that the focus shifts to international relations and impending war. Whether that makes all the earlier stuff a distraction or an unexpected sidelight depends, I guess, on the reader's range of interests.
What's clear, though, is that Ronald Cartland was a fascinating character and one, I say without taking anything away from this book, deserving of a fuller, more scholarly biography (I don't believe one has been produced yet). Students of Churchill and the British political scene in the days before the war will certainly find much merit in this book, and will no doubt join Churchill and Cartland's many other friends and associates in mourning his untimely, though gallant, death on the battlefield.