Book Review: Hero of the Empire

Holding a millennial’s attention with a biography is no small feat, but Candice Miller did so effortlessly. She brought Churchill to life with prose both intriguing and informative.

Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

by Candice Millard

At the age of twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England. He arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels and jumpstart his political career. But just two weeks later, Churchill was taken prisoner.  Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape—traversing 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.
    Bestselling author Candice Millard spins an epic story of bravery, savagery, and chance encounters with a cast of historical characters—including Rudyard Kipling, Lord Kitchener, and Mohandas Gandhi—with whom Churchill would later share the world stage. But Hero of the Empire is more than an extraordinary adventure story, for the lessons Churchill took from the Boer War would profoundly affect twentieth century history.” –Amazon Description

Every time I visit, my grandmother gives me a stack of books, which I return on my next visit. The Library of Grandma is the best because, as a school librarian, she knows good literature. We have similar tastes, by which I mean, we’ll read anything that’s well written.

In fiction or non-fiction, two subjects never fail to fascinate me: World War II, and La Guerra Civil de España (The Spanish Civil War, and subsequent years under El Generalísimo Franco. Click HERE for a great book set in that period).

Hero of the Empire doesn’t touch WWII, but reading it gave me a deeper understanding of Winston Churchill. Not only that, it convinced me that the Boer War is a fascinating tale in its own right, not just a precursor to WWI and WWII.

After finishing, my first thought was “Why isn’t this a movie?” The book read like an action film: bravery (or male stupidity disguised as bravery), political intrigue, culture clashes, class wars, imperialism, explosions, and daring escapes. With so much in a true story, it’s a wonder anyone writes fiction. I came away with two impressions of Winston Churchill: 1) Either Someone was watching over him, or he abounded in sheer dumb luck; 2) pardon my French, but that guy had serious balls.

Churchill threw himself into danger countless times, yet somehow escaped unscathed. He was as arrogant as the aristocrats from whom he descended, and stubborn as a toddler in the candy aisle at the grocery store. In other words, he was exactly what the world needed at that point in history.

Holding a millennial’s attention with a biography is no small feat, but Candice Miller did so effortlessly. She brought Churchill to life with prose both intriguing and informative. I highly recommend this book, and I can’t wait to read her others.


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Hero of the Empire


Other books by this author that my grandmother recommends (I haven’t read them yet)


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Author: C.C. Hansen

C.C. Hansen is a writer and speech-language pathologist. When she is not working, she may be found with her nose in a book, her hands in a ball of bread dough, or her feet on a trail in the mountains.

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