BOOKS

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

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Candice Millard is a fine, fine writer. Her previous books – DESTINY OF THE REPUBLIC (President Garfield’s assassination) and THE RIVER OF DOUBT (TR’s post-presidential near-death journey down a tributary of the Amazon) – are both terrific reads.

Now comes her telling of Winston Churchill’s exploits as a newspaper correspondent in the Boer War. Captured in the conflict’s opening days after the young British aristocrat demonstrated extraordinary courage under fire, Churchill celebrated his 25th birthday in a POW in Pretoria, the capital of the Boer’s South African Republic. His subsequent escape is the stuff of headlines and legends. It reads like a Hollywood movie script, but is also a reminder of the capriciousness of fate: the world could well have been denied Churchill’s great leadership in WWII by his tragic death four decades earlier if anything, any little thing, had gone wrong.

The man whom Millard illuminates is not simply an action figure. One of the author’s great skills is to explain the full person. In Millard’s telling, Churchill comes across as mixture of both selfless, audacious courage and ruthless, self-centered ambition and, as a result, both more interesting and more human.

This is a spectacular book. If you’re a Churchill fan, demand it for Christmas from Santa.

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What Karl's reading

After three years preparing The Triumph of William McKinley by reading very little but books, letters, articles and newspapers from the Gilded Age, I’m trying to get back into my regular routine, which I’ll chronicle here with an occasional review of what I’ve read.

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A massive British invasion fleet nears the coast, its target a key port on the far edge of the United States. 

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Not only does this volume have the best title of any book I’ve read in the past year, but it will keep you on the edge of your chair until you finish this tale.

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This is a riveting tale of brotherly love, tested in a time of global war.  The characters are vividly drawn, the action riveting and the suspense almost overwhelming. 

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My copy of PORTRAITS OF COURAGE arrived and I thumbed through it, expecting to take a quick look before adding it to my reading stack and getting to it in a few days.


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