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The Churchills: A Family at the Heart of History

4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  496 ratings  ·  86 reviews
s/t From the Duke of Marlborough to Winston Churchill
There never was a Churchill from John of Marlborough down who had either morals or principles', so said Gladstone. From the First Duke of Marlborough - soldier of genius, restless empire-builder and cuckolder of Charles II - onwards, the Churchills have been politicians, gamblers and profligates, heroes and womanisers. T
Paperback, 640 pages
Published April 7th 2011 by Little Brown (first published April 1st 2011)
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Having enjoyed Mary S Lovell's previous books, I was looking forward to this biography of The Churchills, and it has exceeded my expectations. In the preface, the author says she may be taken to task for adopting a 'gossipy' approach to her subjects. She also says that she began this project with the idea of writing about the entire Churchill family, but the scope was too much for one volume. Seeing that there are many biographies about individual people in this book, not least about its most fa ...more
Even at 600+ pages this was an easy gossipy read that sped by. Mary S. Lovell has written of the big names and famous families before (The Mitford Sisters, Bess of Hardwick and Beryl Markham) so she knows the territory. Though she begins at the beginning with the first Churcills, the original Duke of Marlborough and his wife Sarah, most of the book concentrates on Winston Churchill and the generation above and below him. Given a thrice-married beauty for a mother (Jennie Jerome, one of the first ...more
When you pick up a book of Winston Churchill, you sort of know what you are going to get. You think you will have yet another retelling of how Winston won World War 2, after featuring in the Boer War as a correspondent and even before that in Sudan as a cavalry officer. Well, yes - you get that, but you get a lot more than that and in a much more entertaining package than many other books can offer.

The main feature of this book is of course the extraordinary love and affection that Winston Churc
This sounds ponderous for summer reading, but it's actually really gossipy and fun. I liked it quite a bit better than the author's book on the Mitford sisters. If you've read a lot about those famous British aristocratic types who lived around time of the World Wars, then you will encounter many familiar names, most of which I have no idea had such ties with Winston Churchill. Highly recommended if you're into chatty, not-stuffy bios from this time period.
Shawn Thrasher
Lovell tackled a giant subject here - but she did it once before (quite successfully) in The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family, and she mostly succeeds here too. She's drew from the extensive Churchill-Spencerian aquifer, effervescent with Marlboroughs and Vanderbilts and Mitfords and Guests and so on, a huge cast. She drew deeply, and by the end, there wasn't much water left. Interestingly, the most vivid parts of the book are during the late Victorian-Edwardian time period. You would thi ...more
This was wonderful. Extremely readable prose, written with care and humor that brings all of the Churchills, good and not so good, to life. Winston is at the center and the stories of his family members and friends are fascinating. I learned a lot about the history of his time in a way I had not before. Ms. Lovell made their lives so contemporary that I had no trouble relating to their charms and foibles a hundred years ago!
I learned an important lesson reading this book. That would be to research your biographer and your options before deciding on a book, and especially if the subject matter is well known. When again will I get around to the Churchill's and Winston? It will be a good while and this book will be with me until such time as I pick up another. There are likely far better books on Winston Churchill and though I've read none of them, I suspect this is not among them. Before I go further I want to say I ...more

It is quite a daunting prospect to review a book about such a monumental person as Sir Winston Churchill. Google his name and pages and pages of stuff are listed. Any one of these provides a potted biography, lists of his many outstanding achievements, the ups and downs of his political career, his talents and interests, his personal and family life, his memorable quotes, trusts, speeches and books he wrote. The latter a career in itself.

So the purpose of this review is not to tell you about Si
Aug 20, 2012 Tracey rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one really
I have read Mary S. Lovell's The Mitford Girls and enjoyed it, so was quite interested to find this in a library The tone is much the same as with the Mitford book, and it makes for easy reading. BUT!!!! I am only on page 33 and already have found 2 factual errors. Granted neither of them impede on the story but they are details that it would have been very easy to get right. It makes me wonder about the accuracy of her research overall. Disappointed to see these. Hope there won't be any more.

Jenny Brown
This book paints an almost mind-numbing picture of the lifestyles of a parasitic class of people born either to obscene wealth or a life eased by a network of powerful connections, who spent much of their time screwing around with other people's spouses, buying and decorating expensive properties bought with other people's money, attending exclusive parties, looking down on anyone not as well born as themselves, and whining about their poverty even when their incomes were literally 25 to 50 time ...more
Mardel Fehrenbach
I can merely say it was okay in a big curl up in the armchair with a glass of wine and indulge in a bit of gossip kind of way. It was fairly quick to read, and offered very little of substance, and was basically an entertaining bit of fluff. I'm certainly not above a bit of fluff here and there, and the book did round out my mental images of a few people who, heretofore, had been vague names on the pages of multiple books and histories.
the Churchill family history is certainly juicy and sometimes depressing. I found myself repeating "no way!" "really?" "Holy cow!"

It made me wonder if anything at all that happens in childhood can really keep a great man from his destiny. Some men just seem to be born for a purpose in history. I recommend this book, even if you don't like history. The Churchills certainly were not boring people!
Janine Urban
Lovell has a knack for writing non-fiction that is readable and I enjoyed this book. Although it was a little too Winston heavy in my opinion. Having read other books on Churchill I could have done without information and discussion on his political career. Taking a more balanced discussion between Winston and other members of the family would have knocked this up another star.
Very weighty tome, but extremely "readable". This book is about personal relationships with the great events of the past two centuries serving as a backdrop. Fans of "Downtown Abbey" should find the descriptions of Victorian and Edwardian moires interesting. I will be checking out Lovell's book about the the Mitford sisters next.
Catherine Robertson
Eminently readable story of a most eminent if slightly bonkers family. Winston comes across as an absolute darling, if one can describe the saviour of the free world as such. Randall comes across as an absolute [expletive censored]. What a shame.
Laura Hutchinson
Like'The Mitford Girls' before it, a page-turning biography written with knowledge from the inside and personal accounts. I particularly enjoyed the romantic and very poignant letters between Winston and Clementine - especially her short telegram to him on VE day: 'it simply could not have happened without you.'

Churchill's mother comes alive off the page - described as being more of a panther than a woman, and hard at work marrying men young enough to be her sons well into her sixties. Randolph
a little too "gossipy" for me.
Jeni Enjaian
I thought this book would be a little bit better than it was. (I'm still holding onto the hope that I'll soon be reading all 3 volumes of The Last Lion.)
When I started reading originally, I thought that the book would be about Winston and Clementine's marriage. (I suppose it would have helped to read the dust jacket.) The "love" stories of all the various members of the Churchill family were fascinating but sometimes distracting. For one, Lovell would often use identical first names of different
Dick Edwards
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
There is something about Lovell's writing that makes the lives, affairs, gowns, parities, marriages and divorces of the British Empire of the 20th Century so important. It was the garden parities, the balls, the adventurers, the safaris that seem to make Britain great, what what. It is what I loved Lovell's other book 'The Mitford Girls'. It does actually warm my heart that it was the likes of Bertie Wooster giving it a go and what not that built up the empire. Ok it was that glossy, but I like ...more
Ruby Hollyberry
I always get a positive impression overall when I feel I've learned a lot, and I read it quickly, although parts gave me a headache. So I kind of liked it, but.... I've read some other composite biographies, including by this author, and they did not give me the feeling that the author only really wanted to do a bio of one person, (possibly Consuelo Vanderbilt as too much of the book is about her - to me boring - life). I would have been happier with a biography of mainly Winston Churchill, or m ...more
Enjoying it; but had to put it down to read "the Help". Soon as I finish "the Help" , I will go back to the Churchills. I find it fascinating the way upper class England in the late 19th century treated their children...What would all the child psycologists say today about raising children that way? They'd probably say the children would be scarred forever; and yet it produced such towering figures such as Winston Churchill. I am only as far as his early childhood, so probably shouldn't rush to ...more
May 13, 2013 Maggie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone wanting inspiration and motivation to achieve a more fulfilling life.
Recommended to Maggie by: My mother.
Shelves: historical-fact
4.5 stars
The lives of the rich and famous, the titled and the privileged, are not necessarily so great and the Churchill’s did not go unscathed. Mary Lovell has produced a really great account of the lives of this famous family, not in a singular fashion either, but by providing us with accounts of all sorts of people who were in and out of their lives to add richness to this story.
Lovell has studied and researched her subject in great detail, obviously from a rich resource of personal diaries,
Dan Cowden
I'm not entirely certain what I was expecting from this book, but it proved very interesting. It's a family / personal history of the Churchill (or Spencer Churchill) clan, from John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough circa 1650 through his slightly more famous descendent (Sir Winston Spencer Churchill, who's paternal grandfather was the 7th Duke, uncle was the 8th, and cousin the 9th) and the family until the late 1970s.

Not unexpectedly, the bulk of the book is spent on Winston and his immedia
This was my first experience with a "Churchill" book and I quite enjoyed it. There were far too many people for me to keep proper track of, so a more extensive family tree may have helped, but it was okay. The layout was good - chronologically covering what happened in each of the main "characters'" lives. The only downside for me was that I just simply could not believe the sheer volume of divorce and adultery that went on. Honestly, even the people who married for love couldn't keep it in thei ...more
Lydia Lewis
Almost stopped reading this book several times because I found the gossipy nature of the book depressing. It almost seemed that life had no purpose for most of the Churchill family members and their social circle except to have affairs and vacation in beautiful places. Churchill's achievements despite his unhappy childhood were the most interesting sections of the book.
Absolutely fabulous book! Mary S. Lovell is a great biographer- I could not put down this amazing drama about the Churchill family. The reader can tell how much the author loved her subject- but at the same time she doesn't shy away from the messy bits. Really juicy read and she never gets bogged down in the politics or machinations of the British government.
This was a very enjoyable read. Of course it was mostly about Winston, but it was also an interesting account of the famous ancestors and other,lesser known, family members. There is adequate coverage of the military and political careers of the main characters, but the story of their personal lives and family relationships is what makes this fun to read. The way the British upper classes intermarried, and produced off-spring from extra-marital affairs, causes a lot of confusing connectedness wi ...more
Lovell does an admirable job of describing more of the Churchill family then just Winston. Although, be not mistaken Winston Churchill takes a large share of this book and it ends with Clementine's death. The highlight of the book was finding all the connections the Churchills had made with the famous people of their time, long before Winston's fame.

Winston is the most famous, but his family was not short of interesting people. It was so good to see the family, how they shaped/influenced Winsto
This book was juicy! I have been meaning to read a biography on Winston Churchill for ages, but haven't decided on the best author yet. This was a great introduction to the Churchills, who were in fact aristoracy--part of his family have a line of Dukes! His father was second in birth order, so not technically a Duke, but this family was involved with scandals, scandals, scandals. There were lots of marriages, mostly arranged, but some for love. Lots of bankrupty, death from typhoid to syphillus ...more
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Mary was an accountant and company director for 20 years before becoming a writer. She wrote her first book in 1981 at the age of 40, while recovering from a broken back which was the result of a riding accident. She returned to accountancy but during the following 5 years she also published two further non-fiction books that were written in her spare time.

She lives in the New Forest in Hampshire,
More about Mary S. Lovell...
The Sisters: The Saga of the Mitford Family Bess of Hardwick: First Lady of Chatsworth, 1527-1608 Straight on Till Morning: the Biography of Beryl Markham A Scandalous Life: The Biography of Jane Digby The Sound of Wings: the Life of Amelia Earhart

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