Carlo D' Este states clearly that his purpose in writing this biography is to explore Churchill the warrior. The book, he says, "is less about events and more about Churchill the man -- his leadership, his triumphs, and his failures." D'Este succeeds in this goal.
D'Este describes Churchill as in company with men "born for war," such Frederick the Great, Oliver Cromwell and his own famous ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough. Churchill, D'Este maintains, cannot be understood if one approaches him as a politician or statesman who was destined to conduct a war but rather must be understood as a warrior who realized that politics forms a part of the conduct of war.
Men "born for war," including Patton, the subject of another excellent D'Este biography, never lose their romantic and self-centered approach to war--even after confronting its most horrible conditions. Most men who experience war hate it. Men like Patton and Churchill never lose their love for it. D'Este shows that Churchill was deeply conflicted about his feelings for war. Having experienced the horrors of war first hand, he empathized deeply with the soldiers and sailors (and their families) who bear the full brunt of the horrors of war. Yet because he personally loved the danger and fighting, he wondered if he could ever forgive himself for his love of war.
D'Este goes into great detail about Churchill's relationships with his generals and admirals in WWII. Churchill tended to try to micromanage his military leaders. Sometimes that was helpful, but with a good commander it made relationships very rocky.
This book is best read together with another biography of Churchill such as William Manchester's opus on Winston Churchill (two volumes, he was regrettably unable to complete the third volume before his death). Manchester's magnificent biography sets Churchill in his life and times. D'Este explores Churchill the warrior.
D'Este explores in greater detail than most biographies Churchill's aptitude for war demonstrated in his childhood play with toy soldiers, his time at Sandhurst, his polo playing, and his fighting in India, Egypt and South Africa. WWI and WWII are similarly well covered.
We also see Churchill with all his flaws: egotistical and self-centered. Yet we begin to see that what we consider as flaws are simply part and parcel of the indomitable personality that made Churchill great at both war and statesmanship.
Churchill's first great romantic love was Pamela Plowden, later the Countess of Lytton. Though never marrying (her father refused to give her hand to Churchill), they remained lifelong friends and D'Este reveals that their correspondence was auctioned by Christie's in 2003 for nearly 300,000 pounds. She said of Churchill many years later, "The first time you meet Winston, you see all his faults, and the rest of your life you spend in discovering his virtues."
I heartily recommend this biography for understanding a side of Winston Churchill that has not been explored by other biographers with such great depth and appreciation for his formation as a warrior and military leader.
As D'Este states in his introduction: "This is the story of the military life of Winston Churchill--the descendant of Marlborough who, despite never having risen above the rank of lieutenant colonel, came eventually to direct the military compaigns of his nation and, more than any other man, to save Britain from tyranny during his and his nation's finest hour."