aa1I am a big fan of historian and writer Candice Millard, her River of Doubt, about the exploits of Teddy Roosevelt in the tangles of South America, is one of the best books I have read in recent years. So imagine my delight when she turned her talents to one of my heroes, Winston Churchill. Having read many books on the great man, I feared I would be on well-trod ground. However, in Ms. Millard  new book, Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill, she concentrates on an early part of Churchill’s career bringing to vivid detail what is often just a chapter in other full life biographies.

About Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard: “At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament.  He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield.  Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him. Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner.  Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape–but then had to traverse hundreds of miles of enemy territory, alone, with nothing but a crumpled wad of cash, four slabs of chocolate, and his wits to guide him. The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned.”

I have read so many book about Churchill it is hard to think there is anything new to be learned. I’ve read books on just his dinner parties, on his watercolor hobby, and other more obscure parts of his life and they are all fascinating and illuminating. Learning more about his experiences in the Boer War, I have a much better understanding of the man who was destined to be in the right place at the right time to save a nation and a way of life.

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard is available from Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.