Hero of the Empire by Candice Millard

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

“I don’t like this fellow, but he’ll be Prime Minister of England one day.” ~Sir George White in reference to young Winston Churchill.

“Winston has spent the best years of his life composing his impromptu speeches.” ~ F.E. Smith.

“Winston is like a strong wire that, stretched, always springs back. He prospers under attack, enmity and disparagement . . . He lives on excitement.The more he scents frustration the more he has to fight for; the greater the obstacles, the greater the triumph.” ~John Black Atkins.

“I said to myself, ‘Toujours de l’audace!'” (Always more audacity). ~ Winston Churchill.

Audacious indeed, Churchill, like Teddy Roosevelt, the subject of another of Candice Millard’s narrative nonfiction histories, would have been a difficult man to befriend or to live with or to be married to. Although I have great deal of respect for both Churchill and Roosevelt, I like the distance that history and books give me. I suspect a close encounter with either man would have left me speechless or even angry or completely dumbfounded. Churchill may have gained some perspective and selflessness as he aged, but as a youth he seems to have been supremely self-centered and cocky.

But he was definitely a leader, even in his twenties during the Boer War in South Africa. Supposedly sent to the war zone as a journalist, Churchill almost immediately became entangled in combat, trying to find opportunities for heroism and acclaim. He did audacious and reckless things, and he got away without getting himself killed in the process. And he got the acclaim he wanted after he escaped from a Boer prisoner of war camp, almost by accident, but sustained by sheer persistence and “good luck”.

“The practice [of prayer] was comforting and the reasoning led nowhere. I therefore acted in accordance with my feelings without troubling to square such conduct with the conclusions of thought.” ~Winston Churchill, from South Africa during the Boer War.

According to the author, Churchill didn’t have much faith in God or religion or Christianity in particular, but when he was at the worst, darkest hour of his harrowing escape across South Africa, he could think of nothing to do except pray. It’s a sort of a foxhole religious awakening, and one doesn’t get the sense that Churchill took much spiritual growth or humility with him into the rest of his escape and subsequent life. But in the depths of the darkness of the 1930’s when no one would listen to him as he trumpeted the dangers of Nazism or in the darkest hours of World War II when none of the countries of the world were really standing alongside Britain against Hitler, maybe he remembered to pray, remembered that God was the one who rescued him during his South Africa escape journey. No one really knows. (I don’t believe in luck.)

After his escape from the Boers, Churchill could have sat on his laurels and drunk copious amounts of champagne, a drink of which he was extremely fond. However, he returned to to South Africa to fight and write about the war. After the Boer War was over, Churchill published two memoirs of the war, London to Ladysmith via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton’s March. His heroism and notoriety gained him a seat in Parliament, and the rest, as they say, is history.

This article gives a good overview of Churchill’s relationship and attitude to Christianity and God.
And here’s an interview at Bible Gateway with the joint authors of a book called God and Churchill.

Other books by Candice Millard:
Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President.
River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey.

Baker’s Dozen: Books to Read for my Around the World Project

I’m planning a new project for 2016, an expansion of my Africa Project. This one is an around the world project in which I hope to read at least one children’s book from or related to each nation of the world. Some countries are easier than others to find books, available in English and written by a citizen of that country. I may have to settle for folktales retold by American or Births authors from some countries or even for books that are simply set in the target country, preferably written by someone who has at least visited the particular setting in the book.

So, here is the page for my Around the World Reading Project. Do you have any suggestions to add to my project list, especially for those countries for which I have no books listed? The books must be for children, available in English (translation or original) in the United States, and preferably written in and popular in the country of origin.

Here are thirteen of the books I already chose that I am planning to read this year:

Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall. (Australia)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch. (Canada)

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson. (Finland)

The Horse Without a Head by Paul Berna. (France)

The Adventures of Maya the Bee by Waldemar Bonsels, 1912. (Germany)

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie. (India)

The Shadow of Ghadames by Joelle Stolz. (Libya)

A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer. (American author) (Mozambique)

The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt. (Netherlands)

Platero y yo by Juan Jimenez. (Spain)

The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren. (Sweden)

Go Ahead, Secret Seven by Enid Blyton. (England)

Jamela’s Dress by Niki Daly. (South Africa)

I chose these particular books from the list mostly because I have them or have access to them. Have you read any of them? Any recommended or not?

Christmas in South Africa, 1902

From Cowboys and Cattle Drives by Edith McCall:

“He worked there until December. Then he was asked to drive a bunch of mules to the town of Ladysmith. On the way, he saw posters for Texas Jack’s Wild West Show. Such shows had becomes popular all over the world, beginning with Buffalo Bill’s show of the 1880’s and 1890’s, for all the world loved the riding, shooting, roping American cowboy.
Will could hardly wait to go to see Texas Jack and find out if he was really from Texas and above all, a true cowboy.
‘Sure am,’ said Texas Jack. ‘And who are you?’
‘My name is Will Rogers, and I’m a cowboy from Indian Territory,’ he said.
‘Is that so? Are you pretty good at riding and roping?’
‘Just fair as a rider, but I can handle a rope pretty well,’ said Will. He showed Texas Jack a little of what he could do, including the Big Crinoline, one of the most difficult tricks.
Then came the words that started Will Rogers on his career.
‘How would you like a job in my show?'”

To read more about Will Rogers and other famous cowboys, check out Cowboys and Cattle Drives or any of the following excellent children’s books, available in my library, Meriadoc Homeschool Library, and I hope in yours:

In the Days of the Vaqueros: America’s First True Cowboys by Russell Freedman.
Cowboys of the Wild West by Russell Freedman.
Cattle Trails: Git Along Little Dogies by Kathy Pelta.
Cowhand: The Story of a Working Cowboy by Fred Gipson.
Will Rogers: Young Cowboy by Guernsey Van Riper, Jr.
Will Rogers: His Life and Times by Richard M. Ketchum.

Exploring the World in Books

I am taking a blog break for Lent, but I thought I’d share some of my old posts from years gone by. I’ve been blogging at Semicolon since October, 2003, more than eleven years. This post is copied and edited from February 28, 2005:

Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.
–Coleridge

I read Nectar in a Sieve by Kamala Markandaya and thought it gave a beautiful, but very sad, picture of life in India for many people. It’s the story of a poor family, a fourth daughter who, because she has no dowry, cannot marry well but must settle for marriage to a landless tenant farmer who brings her home to a mud hut he built himself. Fortunately for the girl, Rukmani, her husband Nathan is “poor in everything but in love and care for me, his wife, whom he took at the age of twelve.”
Rukmani narrates the story in first person, telling of the birth of her daughter, the long wait during which the couple think they will have no more children, and then the birth of her five sons. The village where the family lives is on the edge of poverty and starvation; a bad year with too much rain or too little rain will push Rukmani’s family over the edge. Change and new economic oportunities come to the village; however, these new ideas and possibilities are full of danger too, for peasants who have nothing in reserve and are unable or unwilling to move with the times.
I wrote about a month ago about some of my favorite fantasy worlds. These fantasy worlds were first encountered on the pages of books. Then, there are historical and sociological worlds that I visit mostly in books, too. Finally, there is the actual world. I’ve never been to India or China or South America, but I have a picture of what life in those lands is (or was) like–again, from books. I think that Nectar in a Sieve, first published in 1954, will become a large part of my picture of India, along with missionary stories, the young man I met a few years ago at Baptist World Alliance Youth Conference, and other sources, such as the women I see at the grocery store here in Clear Lake dressed in saris.
Warning: The book has a bittersweet ending, but it’s realistic without being hopeless and depressing. Excellent.
These are some of my favorite books that have given me vivid pictures of the world. Most of them are fiction.
Around the world in books:
South Africa: Cry, the Beloved Country and Too Late the Phalarope both by Alan Paton
India: Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, The Christ of the Indian Road by E. Stanley Jones, Boys Without Names by Kashmira Sheth.
China: Imperial Woman by Pearl S.Buck, The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang, Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin, other books by Pearl Buck
Antarctica: Troubling a Star by Madeleine L’Engle,
The Netherlands: The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
England (Yorkshire): All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot and all the many, many books I’ve read that take place in England.
Russia: The Endless Steppe by Esther Hautzig (And, of course, Tolstoy and Dostoyevski, although they’re more historical)
Israel: Exodus by Leon Uris
Hawaii: Hawaii by James Michener

Can you suggest any books that capture the culture and living conditions of a country in either fiction or biography? I do prefer and learn more from stories.