Tuesday, November 29, 2016

by Candice Millard 

In his mind, Winston Churchill was totally convinced of his importance. (Ego certainly ran in this family.) Churchill believed that he was special. He knew that one day he would become the prime minister of England. In order to achieve his goal, though, Churchill had to do something monumental, which would be on the battlefield. Not that he hadn't tried before. Churchill had already participated in three wars: Cuba, India, and the Sudan, but had not returned home with any medals.
At the age of twenty-four, Churchill went to South Africa in 1899 as a journalist for a newspaper. Since he was an aristocrat, he arrived with his valet and many crates of wine. (Can't be without some kind of comfort.) The British were fighting the Boer rebels, who were not soldiers but farmers and businessmen. They hated uniforms and would certainly not wear one.
The British army was expected to win. Their fighting forces were known and feared all over the world. But they were struggling. The Boers had no intention of losing and their weapons were quite powerful. The British never saw them appear (they were the invisible enemy) until it was too late.
Two weeks after Churchill's arrival, he along with many British soldiers and officers were taken prisoner after their armored train was attacked. When the Boers realized that they had captured the son of Lord Randolph Churchill, they were exultant. Churchill was quickly moved to a POW camp in Pretoria, which was the Boer capital. From that day forward Churchill thought of nothing else but escape.
Candice Millard has written another stupendous goldmine of a book. (This is her third.) Previously, she wrote about James A. Garfield (reviewed in this blog) and Theodore Roosevelt. Millard is a master storyteller and brings a portion of history to life that keeps you riveted. It took her five years to compile all of her research. It's fascinating reading about Churchill's early life, The Boer Wars, and South Africa. Finding an author who has such talent that every book she puts out is just as good as the previous one is wonderful. I'm already looking forward to whoever she chooses to write about next. It will be well worth the wait.
Very highly recommended.