Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict is a historical fiction novel about Winston Churchill's wife. A great deal has been written about Churchill's leadership during World War II, his charismatic speeches, his military failures like Gallipoli, yet not as much has been written about his wife.
Clementine Hozier was born into an aristocratic family, but the lifestyle of her Bohemian mother has made it difficult to ascertain her parentage and that of her siblings. Her mother's husband, from whom she remained separated from but not divorced, was widely considered to have been sterile. I find it interesting that this was a 'known' fact, as I wouldn't imagine that would be knowledge commonly spoken about in the late 1800s! Regardless, both Clementine and Winston shared a similar upbringing with absent father figures, and mothers more interested in hedonistic lifestyles than helping to raise their children. They also shared a passion for politics of which this novel includes many examples.
Lady Clementine depicts Clementine Churchill as having had an incredibly influential hand in Winston's political career. She was socially savvy, intelligent, and knew how to handle her husband's 'bulldogish' temperament. Clementine seems to have been a woman ahead of her time, much different from the Prime Minister wife predecessors of her time. She attended political meetings where women had never before been allowed. She was actively involved in the women's suffragette movement in Britain, equipping and sanitizing bomb shelters during WWII, and a variety of other social and humanitarian issues related to the Liberal Party. I would be very interested to read an actual biography about Clementine to see if she was indeed as involved as Benedict's novel depicts.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect I learned regarding the Churchill's lives was their ineptitude as parents. Granted, neither of them had good examples to follow, and neither are depicted in this book as religious or even God-acknowledging individuals. I do not necessarily see that as an excuse, more as an obstacle to overcome. Many people with less than stellar parental figures have made better choices, by the grace of God. I do not mean for this statement to be judgmental, but rather observational. Examples of favoritism, indulgence over discipline, a lack of interest in being present, and choosing to shut down rather than engage their children abound. It was rather a sad familial legacy to leave behind.
I learned a great deal and really enjoyed Benedict's book. If you are interested in female WWII figures, I would definitely pick it up! I have read Benedict's other historical fiction works as well and recommend them too. I have included a list and short summary:
The Other Einstein delves into Albert Einstein's first wife Mileva Marić, the only woman studying physics at the school in Zurich Albert also attended in 1896. She was incredibly intelligent, and some of the great discoveries attributed to Albert were very possibly stolen from her.
Carnegie's Maid is a bit more fictitious than historical, but also fascinating. No one knows conclusively how or why Andrew Carnegie transformed from a ruthless businessman to the world's first philanthropist, but tales have been told of an Irish maid he fell in love with who may have lent a hand to this change.
The Only Woman in the Room follows the life of famous Hollywood film star Hedy Lamarr, formerly Hedy Kiesler, whose beauty saved her through her marriage to a powerful Nazi arms dealer in Austria. She was also a scientist who helped invent groundbreaking modern communication equipment, Will anyone listen to her, or will she always only be known for her pretty face?
Marie Benedict's newest book The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is scheduled to be released on December 29, 2020. It will follow the disappearance of famous mystery writer Agatha Christie. She vanished for a period of time and as far as I know, no one has figured out the who, what, where, or why of said disappearance. I am looking forward to reading it! Agatha Christie is one of my favorite authors!