This autobiography of Winston Churchill’s early life, until he was almost 30, is a very enjoyable read, and gives a lot of insight into his way of thinking and attitude to life. It is very well written, and entertaining, as you would expect from him.
Highlights of his younger years include his amusing descriptions of his struggles at school with Latin, as well as his story of breaking his leg by jumping off a bridge and trying to land in a tree below, while playing with this cousins. After school, he went into the army, rather than going to university, which he later laments as he tries to broaden his knowledge by reading many philosophy and other well-regarded books, but without a guide finding himself somewhat at sea.
Having got into the army, he uses his connections to get himself involved in all the major events going on at the time. He starts out in India, where the focus most of the time is Polo, but when a rebellion occurs he gets himself assigned to the action. In a summer holiday he fits in a trip to Cuba to see the Spanish army fighting against the locals, and later when trouble brews in Egypt he works all his connections to get sent there and see front line action. Finally, and for the longest portion of the book, he ends up in the Boer war, now as a war correspondent rather than a soldier, but still getting himself involved in the action, which at one point results in him ending up as a prisoner of war. Churchill quickly escaped, and so adding to his fame and reputation, and then remained involved as a correspondent as the war continued.
After and during these events he recounts his first, unsuccessful, attempt to become an MP, and then after the Boer war, his election. It would seem extremely strange these days, but he then spends the first few months of being an MP on a lecture tour around the UK and USA, based on his experiences in the Boer war, with the successful aim of setting himself up financially. A brief summary of his first appearances in parliament bring the book to its end.
Throughout the book, he shows his intelligence and abilities, but more so I was struck by both his ambition, and his fortunate position to be able to make the most of it. It is hard to imagine any other soldier at the time being able to get assigned to any field of action that he liked, by working his and his mother’s connections; and furthermore he is able to earn an extra living from these assignments as a war correspondent and writing books. Similarly, his book suggests he perhaps only got into Harrow school on the back of his family, and not his academic ability.
However, it is very admirable that he was so ambitious to learn and see the world, and that he did not take the easier and more mundane route that others may have done. He also showed a strong desire to learn, and spent a lot of his time studying to catch up on what he thought he had missed out on by not attending university.
I would highly recommend this book for an enjoyable read and an insight into Winston Churchill.