In the best tradition of popular historians like Doris Kearns-Goodwin, David McCullough and Barbara Tuchman, comes Candice Millard’s latest book: “Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape and the Making of Winston Churchill.”
Millard, a young scholar with an eye for detail and phrasing, writes accessible history that reads like the best of contemporary well-crafted novels. If high school civics teachers and college professors alike could make history come alive the way she does on paper, there would be no dozing in class or cribbed essays. History is not dull. And in hands like Candice Millard’s the long-dead people she brings to life fairly leap from the pages. Her latest subject—young Winston Churchill at war with South Africa’s Boers, though officially a correspondent—is at once, imperious, egregiously egocentric, undeniably brave, and foolhardy to a fault. She captures his arrogance intact and presents the reader with a thrilling tale of Churchill’s brief time as a prisoner of war, a demeaning position for an aristocrat like him. Using generous quotes from Churchill and those who served with this staunch imperialist, Millard paints a complete portrait of self-anointed “Great Man” in training. Like her books on Presidents Garfield “Destiny of the Republic,” and Teddy Roosevelt “The River of Doubt,” Millard focuses on one particular chapter in each of their lives and delivers captivating—sorry, Winston—stories of each man. William Manchester’s three-volume biography of Churchill was a massive tome but also a popular work. By opting not to repeat the grand Churchill story, Candice Millard has spotlighted a particular chapter in the British statesman’s life and her audience is richer for her effort.