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4.6 out of 5 stars
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What surprised me most about this book was the humour. I expected the familiar story of our greatest leader's early life, I expected an insightful account of Britain in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, I expected a stirring tale of a young man who was a practical adventurer just as much as politician and author. I didn't expect to laugh out loud regularly for much of the story.
If you've seen the film "Young Winston", based on this book, you will be familiar with some of the events. Other programmes and books have adequately explained his war leadership and his contribution to many serious political issues. However, the films and documentaries I have seen fail to capture the mischievous spirit communicated through this book.
This a fascinating study of a bygone age, when Britain maintained a great empire, when most politicians took the title Lord, and when politics and army officership were sports for those of independent means. Interestingly despite his aristocratic bloodline Churchill's family was not particularly wealthy and some of the most poignant lessons stem from this.
Sometimes the sentiments in the book appear bloodthirsty or imperialistic, but you have to realise that at least part of the time Churchill is writing satirically, reflecting common values which you suspect he did not always share himself. When he is sincerely expressing his own serious ideals it is usually easy to detect.
These beliefs link both his skilful analysis of historical events, and Churchill's account of his own development. For example he explains the British government's failure to be magnanimous after the early victories of the Boer war as the reason that a relatively fast-moving and honourable conflict descended into "shocking evils" on both sides. The same failing is shown as a prime force in the leftward drift of Churchill's own politics.
Churchill was a great writer, but it's instructive to learn that his facility with English developed largely because he was judged early on to be too dim to cope with Latin and Greek. The classics loss was our gain, the legacy including both Churchill's great deeds and great writing.
The last chapter is slightly disappointing, with Churchill's early parliamentary career an anticlimax, and the story stops rather than ending on a major event. That apart, the pace, interest and humour are consistent throughout.
This book was written in 1930, when Churchill was already 56, but in the "wilderness years" before he regained high office and led Britain through the Second World War. It is interesting to speculate whether the book would have been very different if it were written either much earlier or later.
If you want adventure, read this book. If you want to understand a great man, read this book. If you want to do both and have a good laugh, read this book.
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on 15 October 2003
I cannot recommend this book enough to anyone with an interest in the life and ideology of Winston Churchill. From tiny acorns grow giant oaks - well, this your chance to witness the development of one of the most influential figures of the 20th Century written by the man himself. In addition to telling a compelling adventure story, this book radiates with vitality, wit, humour and intelligence. One of the best, if not THE best book I've ever read. Go on, buy it. You won't be disappointed!
Inspirational!
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on 22 January 1998
Although most of Churchill's huge output of books were written a little too fast (apparently, he had other demands on his time) to endure as classics, in this very personal story of his boyhood and youth his prose is superb. Further, he follows the brilliant strategy of <not> looking back on his younger years with the wisdom of age. He describes the events of his childhood with exactly the same boyish emotions he felt at the time. His account of his struggles with schooling remain justly famous, and there's adventure aplenty in Afghanistan, Cuba, the Sudan, and South Africa. A great book for boys (or former boys), especially ones with large vocabularies. --- Steve Sailer
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on 17 April 2002
This book, written by the man himself, is VERY easy to read. It will give you an insight to the man and the events that occured in the first twenty five years of his long and eventfull life. I found this book funny/sad/exciting and 'warm', never dull. His writings in this book shows his thoughts and feelings of the time. I certainly recommended it
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on 3 September 2000
This book is very well written and captures the readers attention from start to finish. It gives a detailed, concise account of Winston's life from his early childhood until the end of his time as a war correspondent during the Boer War. In addition to the facts of his adventures he gives interesting accounts of his views, thoughts and ideas as he held them at that time. As he grew up in an era when life was very different to that we experience in the 21st century, it offers insight into life as it was in the 1890's. Included are accounts of his time in Cuba, northern India, the Sudan and South Africa.
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on 14 October 2001
This reads like a piece of fiction,it is an extrodinary adventure story.
From the mountains of Afganistan via the last great cavalry charge of the British army to escaping from a Boer prison and being hunted with a reward "dead or alive" on his head.
There is a paragraph which might make you wonder if it did not inspire a famous seen in Indiana Jones; Winston having a sword rather than a whip, before resorting to common sense and a revolver.
Superbly written with a sharp wit. A wonderful real life adventure, which helped to mold the man of the 20th century
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on 24 March 2011
When I first picked up this book I was not sure what to expect. I, probably like most people, only really knew the Churchill through the war year and what I had been taught in school. All I knew was that he was Prime Minster, gave Germany a run for their money and like the odd cigar.

So I started reading, on recommendation and found that the book is like a modern movie blockbuster, I don't mean that in a bad way, it is great! The plot flows from his time as a young child, up through his less than successful education. It follows a young Churchill through his Military training and then on to his adventure is Cuba, India and Africa. The book rolls from one adventure to author which keeps the pages turning. It offers a real insight to a man who believed one hundred percent in his own convictions and his thirst to be the centre of all the action serves him well throughout his career. Throughout the book you meet all the important characters in his military career and later his political career, which it touches on in the later parts of the book.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story, coupled with Military facts/adventure and humour (on more than a few occasions it had me laughing outloud...now that I did not expect). It's hard to believe that this is the mostly unknown Churchill as is by far one the most interesting books I have ever read!
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on 19 July 2005
There's really not much you can say except:
This book is easily in the shortlist .. the top-five list .. maybe the top-two list ... for the single greatest book in the English language.
Quite simply like nothing else ever written.
Makes all of fictional literature seem a bit pointless, makes all of biography and autobiography plain dull.
Simply one of the great masterpieces of civilization.
All Men should read this book, ideally at age 17. Enjoy!
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on 20 March 2015
Well, this book really opened my eyes to Churchill the man as,opposed to Churchill the statesman. He writes with a very modern style, considering that he was a man moulded in the 19th century and this was written in 1930.

I found him to be modest and honest with regard to his military career and I just loved his personal account of one of the last cavalry charges ever made by the British army. It really rang true.

I'm not daft; I do realise that he was a privileged elite and in many ways just as disconnected from ordinary people as the likes of Ed Milliband. But he did seem to have an empathy with working people and he recognised the need to be self sufficient.
Unlike Ed, he did not pretend to be a working man and to know how I feel. Ed would not have lasted a week in my secondary modern school in 1970, unless he spent all his nights doing the school hard nut's homework for them
I can't help but wish that some of our present day politicians had experienced some of the things Churchill had at the age of 27. Let's get back to real people politicians - warts and all, and not these over polished twits that we have suffered for decades.
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on 16 November 2009
I brought the book because it was about a bloke that lived in the world 50 years ago and who is still regarded today; I hoped to learn something. What I read was a narration straight from the axis of the adventure/thriller genre that usually occupies my attention. And it was real. And it was thrilling. And I learnt something about conviction and courage. My search for heroes has been embellished by this read.
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