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The books:

  • Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts
  • The Black Count by Tom Reiss
  • LOTR: The Two Towers by J.R.R.Tolkein
  • LOTR: The Return of the King J.R.R.Tolkein

April was a good month for books! I had some lovely (indecisive) Spring weather to enjoy reading either out in the sun or indoors when it snows & rains. Recently, I have found a keen interesting in historical biographies. By focusing on one persons life, you can learn much from that time period. For example, I learnt much about the Mongol global invasion through the biography of Ghengis Khan.

Churchill: Walking With Destiny by Andrew Roberts

And so, this month I read two historical biographies. The first was of Winston Churchill. Some documents and letters had been recently been released allowing a fuller picture to be painted of the war-time Prime Minister of Great Britain. I do not remember whether I learnt much about him in school history classes. What a shame if not as he led an extremely interesting life! From being arrested in South Africa during military service to the hundreds of master-class speeches he gave to Parliament and the nation, he led an extremely energetic life.

Letters to his wife and children, and accounts of his closest advisors and secretaries give us an intimate perspective of Churchill. The man seemed rather excentric and larger than life at times – which gave for some very enjoyable reading. Funnily enough, Churchill suspected he would die in his 40s, alike to many of his relatives; perhaps this was one source of his unrelenting energies. He did, however, die at 90 years of age.

The book does a great job of depicting the war through Churchill’s lenses. It also enlightened me to the workings of British parliament, which I had not taken much interest in before. Roberts does not give uncessary details about the war unless Churchill was directly involved, as he was many times.

His earlier life is interesting. The book quotes Churchill predicting him being the ‘saviour of London’ when he was only 18. This among many of oddities make it seem the Churchill was guided by an unknown force throughout his life, or ‘his wings’.

Several places within the book cite the speeches Churchill made as something along the lines of ‘his greatest ever’, which I found rather perplexing, as they cannot surely all be the greatest. However, I am sure they were all great and the way Churchill progressed to oratory and literature fame is shown well as the book progresses.

Robert does not fail to included many of the wrong decisions and opinions Churchill made and held throughout his life. Military failures, racial eugenic opinions, somewhat life-endangering stunts. In any case, Churchill is shown to be a man who fights for what he believes is right throughout his life, through being somewhat egotistical and extroverted nature.

I would recommend this book to anyone interest in the wartime Europe as seen by one of the greatest public figures of this age. The book conveys Churchill as an extremely interesting man, with endless passions and creativity. He was the father of tanks and of the secret service, aiding the creation of nuclear weapons, as well as being a son, a father, a butterfly collector and a painter. It was enjoyable to witness his wit, passion, and energy – portrayed well through Robert’s writing.

The Black Count by Tom Reiss

I then travelled back in time, to the age of one of Churchill’s idols: Napoleon. However, this is a story of a man that Churchill may have known nothing about. The Black Count is Alexandre Dumas. The father of the novelist who produced The Count Of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers. Indeed, much of the inspiration of these books lay in the events of this fascinating man’s life.

He was born on the island of Haiti, or Saint Domingue back then, and after being sold into slavery by his father, was bought out of slavery by the same man, to move to France and live as a well educated, upper-class man during the French Revolution.

He is shown to be a man of exceptional talent, strength and integrity. From which his son, who only knew him for the first four years of his life, gained incredible admiration and inspiration for. Further accounts came from his mother and some of his father’s colleagues. As the source material is somewhat low, Reiss gives a broad description of the revolution among the French nation, and the Napoleaonic wars of which Dumas was involved in. I believe the book would be much smaller if the reader was assumed to have a sense of the time period, or if many details not closely associated to Dumas were left out.

However, this book does successfully convey the incredible attributes and military achievements of this forgotten man. From scaling the alps in battle, to surviving poison in prison, Alexandre Dumas was a strength to be reckoned with; evident also in his climb through the military ranks of revolutionary France. He also survived through much turmoil within the French revolution, when at the time being accused of conspiracy could be a death sentence, as it was for many of Dumas’ collegues. The book also shows the darkness which Napoleon’s campaigns fed, bringing life back into racist laws at the end of Alexandre Dumas’ life.

How one civilisation can ride the back and achievements of such a great man, and many other men, and then throw them down the next moment is indictive of the treachy that presides much in places of power. Here, the decripid values of men are allowed to flourish unsupervised and encouraged by wealth and influence.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the French revolution, through the perspective of one of its most courageous members, who was on the forefront of the fight at all times. From exception feats in the Netherlands to campaigns in Egypt, you can see how his son found inspiration for his great novels. I enjoyed learning about this point in history from a perspective other than the norm.

The Lord of the Rings

I was able this month to finish reading the triology that Tolkein wrote. In contrast to the characters in the two other books I read this month, Tolkein was very much anti-war. It seems The Lord of the Rings trilogy was written as to give hope to the seemingly hopeless world that Tolkein experienced during his time in WW1.

I enjoyed every aspect of these books, and would recommend them as a source of entertainment, inspiration, and wonder. The tales of the all the characters seemingly intertwine with the longer events of past ages. During times of uncertainty and when all seems dark in the world and fear is encouraged, it is comforting to me that we are of the same story of those that came thousands of years before us and those that will come for thousands after.

Victory is shown to be achieved through hope, as well as bravery and fellowship. Darkness may come into the world, but everything must end. I’ve learnt it is best to be Merry and brave in any situation, and to always stand by your friends. Everyone should read these books! Maybe I am biased but I have little bad to say of Tolkein.

I have been inspired to read the other works of Tolkein, and discover further the mythology and greater meanings he was attempting to convey and soothe the world with.

Have you read these books? What did you think? If anyone has any suggestions of historical biographies I would love to know them!

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