Our book last night was Hero of the Empire: the Boer War, a daring escape and the making of Winston Churchill by Candice Millard. When most of us think of Churchill, we picture the portly, bow-tied figure with a cigar in one hand and flashing a victory sign with the other. We tend to forget the dashing young journalist and soldier, a relative of a distinguished ducal family, who believed he was destined for greatness and was in a hurry to achieve it. The story that Millard tells is of that young Churchill taking every opportunity, pulling every string, and using every influence he has to advance his career. The story is set in what is today South Africa, but at the time was divided between British colonies and the Boer states. Boers were the descendants of the original Dutch settlers of the region and fiercely resented and fought against the British incursion into their lands. Millard provides a history of the region, of how the Boers seized land from the natives and then the British from the Boers, resulting in a first and second Boer war. It was during the second war that Churchill was captured by enemy forces and imprisoned. After some time, he was able to escape, found his way through enemy lines to a neutral Portuguese colony and became a national hero. He was soon elected to Parliament and was on his way to becoming the Churchill we know. Our discussion covered the similarities between the Boer War and Vietnam, the difference between power and money and the nature of Churchill’s character.
Our next meeting will be on January 25th, 2018. The book to be discussed, Once Upon a Time in Russia: the rise of the oligarchs- a true story of ambition, wealth, betrayal and murder by Ben Mezrich, is available at the Circulation Desk. All are welcome.