Hero of the Empire

  • by Candice Millard
  • Narrated by Simon Vance
  • 10 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From New York Times best-selling 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 24 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 had to 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.


What the Critics Say

"Millard ably weaves a seamless and gripping narrative of the future statesman's early career and involvement in the Boer War.... [V]ivid, entertaining.... A fresh, captivating history of the enduringly colorful Churchill." (Kirkus)
"Biographer Millard 'gets at' her subject by a somewhat out-of-left-field path that leaves the reader satisfied and feeling that her approach is right and perfect.... Millard's rendering of the exciting details of Churchill's heroic exploits result in a magnificently told story." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Far More Than Simply, Hero of the Empire!

General - This is the second Candice Millard book I’ve listened to; the first being River of Doubt, which is one of the best books in my library! (see review) So, the author and the fact that I wanted to learn more about the subject, Winston Churchill, prompted me to purchase this on the Audible release date with no Audible reviews to go by. That’s not something I typically do.

Content – Hero of the Empire has a wealth of information about the life of one of the most interesting people to span the 19th and 20th Centuries and about the Boer War(s) in general. I already knew a fair amount about Churchill during WW II and that he was pivotal in human history at that time, but prior to that I only knew that he was First Lord of the Admiralty during the early years of WWI. Now I know that this man was pretty amazing long before WWI or WWII. Perhaps, the greatest personality of the 20th Century.

Length – I didn’t find the book too long at all. I finished all 10.25 hours within 24 hours of purchasing the book; yesterday to today. This was the fastest finish of any book by far. In my opinion there wasn’t any “fill” in this book worth removing with the sole exception of very few minutes of nearly current events in South Africa at the very end. The listening was so easy that I would avoid any abridged version, if one is ever released.

Caveat(s) – I generally multi-task while listening and this book is “heavy” on the details and names so I have several gaps where I likely missed something. However, the book flowed so well that I just kept going. I will need to listen again to catch information that I missed on the first pass. Unless you devote specific undistracted time, expect the same feeling.

Narration – Well, Simon Vance is simply one of the best. I could listen to him narrate the phone book; “Smith, John H. 555-123-0000, Smith, John J. 555-234-0000…”! Yeah, and I wouldn’t get bored. He’s that good and especially with this book. I would say that he was at least 30% of my decision to get the book without any review to go by. You just never get tired of listening to him so I knew narration would not be an issue.

Summation – The book tells an interesting history of a very unique personality and I definitely learned things that I never knew before. This book has prompted me to go look for other books about Churchill to learn even more. While this book does not come close to how good River of Doubt is, at least on first pass, I can say that it is a solid book that I will keep and I will listen to again. I only gave four stars for Overall because I can't help comparing it to River of Doubt.
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- Matthew


I am turning into a big fan of Candice Millard. For me, she brings history alive. I thoroughly enjoyed Millard’s other two books: “The River of Doubt” about Theodore Roosevelt’s Amazon trip in 1912 and “Destiny of the Republic” about the assassination of James A. Garfield. I read everything I can get my hands on about or by Winston S. Churchill. When I discovered Millard had written her new book about Churchill, I just had to read it. With so much written about Churchill, Millard did what she is a master of and narrowed the story and I found some hidden pearls of information.

The author reviewed briefly Churchill’s adult life up to the Boar War so the reader had no problems following the narrowed scope of the book from that point on. Millard shows how Churchill’s trials and tribulations in the conflict of the Boar War profoundly influenced Churchill. When he escaped from the prison camp and crossed over to Portuguese Angola, Millard implied that Winston was not only physically free but, for the first time in his life, psychologically free from his father Lord Randolph Churchill.

Millard attempted to be unbiased about WSC. She pointed out his strengths and faults. I appreciated this more realistic portrayal of him. Churchill never attempted to conceal his driving ambition. If you read his books it comes through in his writings. The book is well written and meticulously researched. Millard provides a brief history of the Boar War so all events are in perspective for the reader. Millard has a great talent of bringing history to life.

Simon Vance does an excellent job narrating the book. Vance is a British actor and award winning audiobook narrator. He is one of my favorite narrators.
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- Jean "I am an avid eclectic reader."

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-20-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio