Clementine

Clementine

by Sonia Purnell

Overview: Late in life, Winston Churchill claimed that victory in the Second World War would have been “impossible” without the woman who stood by his side for fifty-seven turbulent years. Why, then, do we know so little about her? In this landmark biography, a finalist for the Plutarch prize, Sonia Purnell finally gives Clementine Churchill her due.

Born into impecunious aristocracy, the young Clementine Hozier was the target of cruel snobbery. Many wondered why Winston married her, when the prime minister’s daughter was desperate for his attention. Yet their marriage proved to be an exceptional partnership. "You know,"Winston confided to FDR, "I tell Clemmie everything."

Through the ups and downs of his tumultuous career, in the tense days when he stood against Chamberlain and the many months when he helped inspire his fellow countrymen and women to keep strong and carry on, Clementine made her husband’s career her mission, at the expense of her family, her health and, fatefully, of her children. Any real consideration of Winston Churchill is incomplete without an understanding of their relationship. Clementine is both the first real biography of this remarkable woman and a fascinating look inside their private world.

Deanna Boe (02/09/19): If you are not into historical novels, and especially ones relating to historical people, then this probably isn’t the book for you. I happen to enjoy historical books, but even so, this book is not a “fast read”. It is difficult to review and do it justice, so because of that I am simply going to quote parts in hopes it will intrigue you enough to want to read it.

“Clementine was not cut out from birth for the part history handed to her. Adversity, combined with sheer willpower, burnished a timorous, self-doubting bundle of nerves and emotion into a wartime consort of unparalleled composure, wisdom and courage. The flames of many hardships in early life forged the inner core of steel she needed for her biggest test of all. By the Second World War the young child terrified of her father…had transformed into a woman cowed by no one. …. This private struggle to fashion a public persona of such determination and elegance cost Clementine her health and her happiness….She had her faults, not least her shortcomings as a mother and perhaps a dash of hypochondria….but she was the lodestar for one of the greatest men of the 20th century and he loved her without question for nearly sixty years…..Winston’s chief of staff General Ismay, who observed both Chruchills at the closest of quarters….firmly believed that without her the “history of Winston Churchill and the world would have been a very different story…..The way she managed a character described as ‘fifty percent genius, fifty percent bloody fool’ was itself a type of genius”

 - at their wedding it was stated that a wife of a statesman was so sacred that she must give him enough love, insight, sympathy and devotion to help him influence positively his role in public life (no mention of what he was to do for her….)

- women Winston had rejected remained unbelievably close to him, (especially Violet) and Clementine tolerated it

-it was never really known if Winston had affairs, many believe that men like Winston who are so caught up in their own imagine and doing something really great in life, do not have a high sex drive…..Clementine and Winston only shared a bedroom the first two months of their marriage

- Winston was in charge Dardanelles during WW I – which had a disastrous outcome making them persona-non-gratis, so Winston volunteered to actually fight in France

- they were always on the brink of bankruptcy, moving from house to house, and even having friends/relatives bail them out…only after WW II did it finally get better

- ironically at different times they had as many as the following all in their employ at the same time: 3 gardeners, a chauffeur, a butler, a farmhand, an “odd” man, a groom, a carpenter, estate workers, researchers, two secretaries, a valet, lady’s maid, two housemaids, a cook, a nanny, a nursery maid and a parlor maid (Clementine had a personal maid her whole life)

- in between the two wars they did not move in fashionable or intellectual circles, nor meet new people at their country home

- their relationship was always closer with each other then their 5 children - Christmas was the one time of the year when Clementine outdid herself and made everything fabulous, but afterwards would need a month or two vacation away

- as much as Winston depended upon Clementine, it was guessed they spent the vast majority of their marriage apart and away from their children

- never before has a prime minister exerted such wide powers….he became a virtual dictator….he invoked fear, terrified ministers, military commanders, his family by his sheer force of will i.e. leadership style of tyrannical…but it saved Britain!
Rating: ****

Faith Bowers (05/21/18): This biography of Clemintine Churchill is very detailed about her whole life, first as a daughter of a broken marriage, penniless upperclass philandering mother and mean spirited father. Her childhood enabled her able to become a very strong person not afraid to stand up to Winston Churchill.

Their marriage was a partnership based upon each other’s strengths and helping with their weaknesses. Since Clemintine was married to Churchill for 60 years, this is as much about them both together and how they keep separate space. I listened to this biography. Mostly it was done in a timeline, though there were a few variations of this presentation which mandated stories written outside. I liked best the comparison of Clemintine and Eleanor Roosevelt both the “first ladies” of World War II. They met and though they seemed to be opposites, they both were strong independent minded women who actually made use of being the first lady to their country. I enjoyed the comparison of their hospitality. Clemintine set a fine table, make sure that living in Chartwell was pleasant, food was delicious and conversation did flow, while Eleanor could care less about food or the maintenance of the White House.

What made me borrow this book from my library, besides that it was long and on audio was the scenes of the Churchills in The Crown.
Rating: ***

Judy Stanton (03/27/18): History is not my strong suit, but I must say I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Clementine Churchill as well as Winston Churchill in this well researched, well written book. It's not a one-sitting page-turner, but a book to be read and absorbed over time. It's fascinating to learn about Clementine starting from childhood, through courtship, her wedding and various stages of her marriage as her husband went in and out of favor in Britain. There have been so many movies and books about Churchill but even his own book, The Second World War, made little mention of the woman who played such an important role both in England and on the international stage. As women, we well know that a man and a woman's perspective on the same issue can be totally different. For Churchill, it was Clemmie who helped him see things from a female viewpoint, who could stand up to him when she thought he was off base, who would bring women into the war effort, and who helped to establish important relationships through dinners and diplomacy. Without having an official political role, she was quite the politician. The book doesn't sugarcoat either Clementine or Winston Churchill, it paints a realistic picture of the couple's strengths and weaknesses, the good times and the bad, the love and the estrangement, but most of all, the stresses and strains on these two people who, together, played a pivotal role in an Allied victory in WWII.
Rating: *****

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