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I remember reading about a dinner party Winston Churchill attended in the late 19th Century. When the table talk turned to God and the Cosmos, a female guest observed that all men are worms. Churchill agreed. “All men are indeed worms” he said, then added a characteristic coda, “but I do believe I am a glow worm.”
And so he was. Another reviewer has likened the adventures in this book to those of Indiana Jones, and they are about right (with the crucial, almost unbelievable difference that these adventures aren’t the product of Hollywood scriptwriters and stunt men).
Accused of rampant self-promotion then and later for his willingness to insert himself into the thick of events, it’s hard not to see his side of things. Born to privilege, he nevertheless found himself on the outskirts of power—due to his father’s political miscalculations—and in need of a way to make a living. Not content to merely possess a respected name, he strove to make others respect him. Though without an aristocratic purse he certainly enjoyed an aristocratic self-confidence—and a confidence in his country and its empire—that carried him through events that would leave you and me seeking the nearest bomb shelter.
Besides high adventure there is common sense and uncommon insights here. Do we revere the Greeks and Romans for what they wrote and thought? Of course we do—they came first, when all the good ideas were as yet un-thought and unwritten. Has the similarity between your daily routine and a hell-for-leather cavalry charge ever occurred to you? There is a parallel:
“In one respect a cavalry charge is very like ordinary life. So long as you are all right, firmly in your saddle, your horse in hand, and well armed, lots of enemies will give you a wide berth. But as soon as you have lost a stirrup, have a rein cut, have dropped your weapon, are wounded, or your horse is wounded, then is the moment when from all quarters enemies rush upon you.”
There is much here to cheer us non-glow worms. He was, for example, a flat failure at school. Mathematics and languages frustrated him as much as they frustrated you and me (well, me at least). He lost his first election—a local by-election—by 1,300 votes. His first foray in the public arena—a speech excoriating the barriers that had been erected in music halls to separate the sexes—was never delivered. And perhaps most oddly of all, considering his later reputation, he had to learn to like the taste of whiskey.
Then there is much to make us feel our worm-hood. He escaped captivity in the Boer War twice, hiding in mines and bales of wool. To be in on the campaign that climaxed at Omdurman, he braved the official disapproval of no less a man that Kitchener. It was that bit of hutzpah that lead to his participating the last cavalry charge in British military history. He used the hours of leisure afforded a cavalryman stationed in India to read, making up for his lackluster academic performance. He was under fire more times than I can count. He wrote so well about it all, in both newspapers and between the covers of books, that his work caught the eye of the great—and put his finances on a firm footing. At the end of this volume (published in 1930), it’s hard to believe that the biggest chapters of the story are still waiting ten years in the future.
Fredrick Davidson was the perfect selection for this recording. His cadence, his sense of the shape of sentences and his unerring way of adding just the right sarcastic, humorous or excited edge to the words—along with the slightly Churchillesque tone he assumes throughout—can make it seem at times as if you’re hearing the man himself.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
Crisply written and wry, Churchill's Early Life gives the reader a retrospective of military life in the waning British empire. Churchill recounts minor actions in Egypt and India and his capture and remarkable escape during the Boer war, all through eyes that had since witnessed, and had been deeply affected by, the Great War. Without dwelling on the moral aspect to these adventures, he finds that their justification does present challenges. Worth reading as history, or as simply a good story.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to My Early Life the most enjoyable?
A combination of a real biography and a tail of true adventure. I thought I new a little of WC but I knew nothing of what shaped him through his first quarter century. Very enlightening.
What was one of the most memorable moments of My Early Life?
An engaging journey from his first memories of childhood through to his early political career.
What about Frederick Davidson’s performance did you like?
Being read by a very plausible voice alike of the man himself gave extra gravity to this book.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I listen to this book every day using my one hour commute until it was finished.
Any additional comments?
A most excellent book that I would have no hesitation in recommending, in fact only my second audio book and it helped me become hooked into the concept.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Given that the outline of the story is so well known, the detail and occasional touches of humour made this both informative and a pleasure.
From being not a fan of Winston being what I thought a hard done by Australian during WW2 U am coming to like him the more I read of him.
What did you like best about My Early Life? What did you like least?
The early parts were interesting but his life of training for war is so far removed from today that I found it difficult to understand.
Would you ever listen to anything by Winston Churchill again?
Have you listened to any of Frederick Davidson’s other performances? How does this one compare?
He is very very good. Sounds like he could have been Churchil himself.
Could you see My Early Life being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?
Any additional comments?
Am returning cause its boring after tgd beginning.