The classic image of Winston Churchill is the rotund, cigar smoking, alcohol drinking wartime leader of Great Britain.
One would hardly recognize this fellow in Candice Millard’s new biography, Hero of the Empire (Doubleday).
Millard tells the story of Churchill’s adventures as a newspaper correspondent in South Africa covering the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century. Millard’s Churchill is an aristocratic army officer, aspiring politician, and famous journalist, who jumps off trains, breaks out of prisoner of war camps, walks miles to evade capture, hides in a coal mine, and makes the most wanted list of Britain’s enemies.
Millard tells a superb story. She writes clearly and concisely, with just enough detail so that the reader can imagine being on the scene. At times the book is a travelogue. At other times it is a valuable history, explaining the Boer character—their toughness, their self-reliance, their independence, and their racism. Millard plays no favorites, as she exposes the brutal concentration camps in which the British confined Boer women and children. She informs the reader of the events leading to the establishment of apartheid in South Africa.
For his adventures in South Africa alone, Winston Churchill earned the title, Hero of the Empire.