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Saturday, 28 April 2018

First Lady: The Life and Wars of Clementine Churchill ~ Sonia Purnell

I started out with a library book and switched to audio so I'd be able to complete this biography.  Purnell gifts us with a balanced portrayal of the Churchills, warts and all. (I did laugh at the cleverly worded account of Winston’s bath pinked, naked, 5ft 6”, 16 stone figure dashing down the hallway after his baths calling out, “Coming through. Don’t look”.)  I’m so thankful I did not have either Winston’s or Clementine’s parents as mine – abusive, self-centred, negligent of their non-favourite children, and, seriously promiscuous.
Their individual childhoods had a profound effect in how they conducted themselves as a couple with all their collective energy going into Winston – sadly, their children ranked second to that task which bore harvests of broken relationships, substance abuse, violent rages, and suicide (Diana) in later life.  The Churchill’s life seemed to be ALL about Winston and his political career, and, Purnell portrayed them as a couple that used people for that express purpose. Clementine was not only Winston’s mainstay during their devoted, complex, and often, very difficult marriage - she was also a key, though unrecognised, figure in the WWII effort.  

I think this book shows providence at work through the Churchill’s lives; what would our post-war world have been without this couple.  (Any fans of President Roosevelt may want to skip portions of this book – he certainly does not shine in this literary setting.)

First Lady was such an interesting read, both my husband and I enjoyed it and we thought it was a little sad, for the Churchills, how quickly Britain discarded them after V.E day.  The nation desperately wanted to move beyond warmongering and Churchill did not present himself as the leader to spearhead the more positive post-war change the people craved.
Clementine passed away at 92yrs of age having lived a very full, highly pressured life – it’s not until reading this biography that I was even aware of her as anything other than Winston Churchill’s wife. 

If you don’t want to read the book I’d recommend listening to the interview with Sonia Purnell here.

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The number beside each book is my personal rating for the book, or audiobook, at the time of reading with the range being:

(1) = would not recommend,

(2) = some interesting aspects but not one of my recommended reads,

(3) = would recommend.

(4) = Really good, enjoyable, (or worthy) read, would definitely recommend

(5) = Excellent book, highly recommend