Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard
The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill

78%

12 Critic Reviews

...these are quibbles, for over all this is a tremendously readable and enjoyable book. The material may feel well rehearsed to Churchill buffs, but breaking new research ground is not Millard’s goal...
-NY Times

Synopsis

From New York Times bestselling author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt, a thrilling narrative of Winston Churchill's extraordinary and little-known exploits during the Boer War
 
At age twenty-four, Winston Churchill was utterly convinced it was his destiny to become prime minister of England one day, despite the fact he had just lost his first election campaign for Parliament.  He believed that to achieve his goal he must do something spectacular on the battlefield.  Despite deliberately putting himself in extreme danger as a British Army officer in colonial wars in India and Sudan, and as a journalist covering a Cuban uprising against the Spanish, glory and fame had eluded him.
 
Churchill arrived in South Africa in 1899, valet and crates of vintage wine in tow, there to cover the brutal colonial war the British were fighting with Boer rebels. But just two weeks after his arrival, the soldiers he was accompanying on an armored train were ambushed, and Churchill was taken prisoner.  Remarkably, he pulled off a daring escape--but then had to traverse 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.
           
The story of his escape is incredible enough, but then Churchill enlisted, returned to South Africa, fought in several battles, and ultimately liberated the men with whom he had been imprisoned.
           
Churchill would later remark that this period, "could I have seen my future, was to lay the foundations of my later life." 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 he would later share the world stage. But Hero of the Empire is more than an adventure story, for the lessons Churchill took from the Boer War would profoundly affect 20th century history.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Candice Millard

See more books from this Author
Candice Millard, the New York Times-bestselling author of The River of Doubt, is a former editor and contributing writer at National Geographic magazine. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and children.
 
Published September 20, 2016 by Doubleday. 400 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War. Non-fiction
Bestseller Status:
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Peak Rank on Oct 09 2016
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Weeks as Bestseller
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Critic reviews for Hero of the Empire
All: 12 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 2

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jun 08 2016

As Millard concludes, he had proved himself exemplary: “resilient, resourceful and, even in the face of extreme danger, utterly unruffled.” A fresh, captivating history of the enduringly colorful Churchill.

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Publishers Weekly

Below average
on Oct 21 2016

By dwelling on Churchill’s privileged upbringing, Millard effectively extinguishes any sympathy the reader might feel for a pompous young man who once wrote, in typically overblown fashion, that if his plans for political office fell through, “It will break my heart for I have nothing else but ambition to cling to.”

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Alex Von Tunzelmann on Oct 04 2016

...these are quibbles, for over all this is a tremendously readable and enjoyable book. The material may feel well rehearsed to Churchill buffs, but breaking new research ground is not Millard’s goal...

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NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on Sep 21 2016

This part of the book — where the train derails — is the only part where the narrative derails, too...Ms. Millard also shows, as she has in her previous work, that she has a great ear for quotes

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Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Tim Brady on Sep 30 2016

She has an eye for telling detail and character insight, a dual skill that makes “Hero of the Empire” a page turner and a fascinating portrait of one of the 20th century’s great figures.

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USA Today

Good
Reviewed by Matt Damsker on Sep 18 2016

...blossoming of Churchill’s political character was told memorably and with great nuance by Michael Shelden in his 2013 book, Young Titan. In contrast, Millard’s tome is a slam-bang study of Churchill’s wit and wile as he navigates the Boer War like some proto-James Bond.

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Tampa Bay Times

Good
Reviewed by Daniel Ruth on Nov 23 2016

Hero of the Empire is a thrilling, fun adventure yarn, well worthy of eventually making it to a screen somewhere. It is also a compelling story of the mysteries of fate and a young future world figure who simply would not be denied his call to greatness.

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Newsday

Good
Reviewed by LYNNE OLSON on Oct 10 2016

This is well-trodden territory, but Millard infuses it with color, excitement and life. Particularly effective is her clear-eyed view of the young Churchill as a bumptious self-promoter whose exploits in Africa were as farcical as they were courageous.

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Lincoln Journal Star

Excellent
Reviewed by J. Kemper Campbell on Nov 07 2016

With this effort, Millard has established her status as an author who can be trusted to choose a dramatic historical topic, do meticulous research on the subject, and use her undeniable gift as a wordsmith to craft a compelling tale.

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Bookin With Sunny.

Above average
Reviewed by Neal Ferguson on Jul 01 2016

...Millard is not breaking new ground in this book, but she tells a thrilling, always entertaining story.

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HistoryNet

Good
on Dec 28 2016

He later recalled the saga in his autobiography My Early Life: “Youth seeks adventure. Journalism requires advertisement. Certainly I had found both. I became for the time quite famous.” He certainly had. A well-known story, perhaps, but always worth another read, and here quite brilliantly told.

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https://bookpage.com

Good
Reviewed by Priscilla Kipp on Oct 21 2016

...offers a revealing portrait of the much younger man, smarting from his first political defeat and hungry for the fame he had yet to achieve. She explores the roots of Churchill’s grit...

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Reader Rating for Hero of the Empire
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