by Simon Read
Boston: Da Capo Press, 2015. Pp. x, 310.
Illus., maps, notes, biblio., index. $26.99. ISBN: 0306823810
Young Winston in Pursuit of News, Wealth, and Glory
Read, whose earlier works, such as Human Game and War of Words, were accounts of unusual murders, here takes on Churchill’s early career. In his twenties, Churchill pursued advancement as an officer and as a war correspondent, often both at the same time. Taking leave shortly after his commissioning, he saw war up close as a correspondent with the Spanish Army fighting Cuban insurgents, and later on the Northwest Frontier of India, in the Sudan, and in South Africa as both a journalist and officer.
Read opens with an outline of Churchill’s upper class background and early life, and then follows with a lively look at the travels, adventures, and battles to which the young aristocrat was exposed or took part in during the years from 1895 to 1904; by the time he was 25 he had been under fire on three continents.
Read’s narrative is well seasoned with anecdotes, observations, and excerpts from Churchill’s works or those of other observers. In this way, he is able to give us some rather good looks at colonial soldiering in the great age of Empire. He also tells us something about the business of writing, including Churchill’s financial arrangements with his publishers, and also Churchill’s “difficulties” as a member of the upper class, given the extraordinary expense that had to be met to maintain one’s image. And, of course, in the process, we also see Churchill growing not only as a soldier and author, but as a military analyst, an education that would continue throughout his life.
Read writes well, making this an easy read, though by no means a shallow work, and even seasoned students of Churchill’s life and career are likely to find new insights into the man’s life, ideas, and character.