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.
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.