Review: Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
Sourcebooks Landmark, 2020. Hardcover, 336 pages.
Marie Benedict’s latest novel focuses on the often overlooked Lady Clementine Churchill, wife of Sir Winston Churchill. Having enjoyed Benedict’s previous novel, The Only Woman in the Room, I looked forward to the opportunity to read and review this novel too. The novel opens to Clementine’s life with her mother and siblings. Despite their aristocratic background, the family is poor and Clementine works for a living. Thanks to a relative, she is sponsored into society and meets Winston. The novel then progresses into their early years of marriage, including Clementine’s role as first lady of the Admiralty during World War I and the struggles that entailed. The novel then moves onward to cover their lives when Winston was out of public office, during the rise of Germany, and World War II and after.
Two themes run strong in the novel. First, Clementine is Winston’s sounding board. He relies on her not only for support, but to help proofread speeches and to attend political events where she is often the only female present and her opinion is respected by all present. While Clementine does her best to support Winston and even goes beyond the typical prime minister’s wife role to help the civilians in World War II (touring bomb shelters, visiting factories, serving as a fire warden, etc.), at times this also affects her nerves. Second, is Clementine’s connections to her other family members. She feels deeply attached to her siblings and youngest daughter, Mary, in addition to her husband. However, her relationship is more distant with her older three children, (Diana, Randolph, and Sarah). This directly affects some of her decisions.
I enjoyed this insight into the life of Clementine. Often, her role in politics is overshadowed by that of her husband and this helps to remedy that. However, I have not read a standalone biography of Clementine yet (the closest is the family bio When Lions Roar: The Churchill’s and the Kennedys I reviewed a few years back), so I cannot fully attest to how accurate parts of her personal life were depicted. Still, all biographies I have read on Winston paint Clementine as his primary supporter and as a strong woman, which Benedict does show. I especially like how the novel started before Clementine and Winston met as it shows the foundation Clementine had to start her life as those lessons helped her on her path in life. Going forward I hope to read Sonia Purnell’s recent biography, Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill, which is the only biography of Clementine not written by a Churchill family member.
This review is based on a copy provided by NetGalley. This novel was released last week on January 7, 2020.