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Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill

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A long-overdue tribute to the extraordinary woman behind Winston Churchill

By Winston Churchill’s own admission, victory in the Second World War would have been “impossible without her.” Until now, however, the only existing biography of Churchill’s wife, Clementine, was written by her daughter. Sonia Purnell finally gives Clementine her due with a deeply researched account that tells her life story, revealing how she was instrumental in softening FDR’s initial dislike of her husband and paving the way for Britain’s close relationship with America. It also provides a surprising account of her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt and their differing approaches to the war effort.

Born into impecunious aristocracy, the young Clementine was the target of cruel snobbery. Many wondered why Winston married her, but their marriage proved to be an exceptional partnership. Beautiful and intelligent, but driven by her own insecurities, she made his career her mission. Any real consideration of Winston Churchill is incomplete without an understanding of their relationship, and Clementine is both the first real biography of this remarkable woman and a fascinating look inside their private world.

436 pages, Hardcover

First published May 14, 2015

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About the author

Sonia Purnell

10 books313 followers
Sonia Purnell is a biographer and journalist who has worked at The Economist, The Telegraph, and The Sunday Times. Her book Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill (published as First Lady in the UK) was chosen as a book of the year by The Telegraph and The Independent, and was a finalist for the Plutarch Award. Her first book, Just Boris, was longlisted for the Orwell prize.

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5 stars
2,290 (31%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 776 reviews
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,699 reviews1,478 followers
April 18, 2020
Wow, I really AM impressed. This is VERY good. It starts out good and amazingly enough gets better and better. It is about time somebody turned their focus on Winston Churchill's wife, a person behind the scenes who did so much.


On completion:

I liked this book because it so well portrays the complicated relationships between the members of the Churchill family – Winston and his wife Clementine and their five children. I thought about the love between Winston and Clementine. One sees both the love and also the hurt they caused each other. I thought about the parents’ respective relationships with the children. No two relationships were the same and this gives food for thought. Did Clementine learn from her earlier mistakes in child-raising? Could Clementine ever relate to her children as Winston did? How did the children relate to their parents, and why did each one behave so differently? There is deep suffering within this family but for different reasons and with different outcomes. The personal interactions are well explored. I didn’t see any of them drawn in a superficially favorable light.

The events of the First and Second World War are drawn from a British point of view, in a concise and clear manner only referring to those events directly related to the Churchills. The Dardanelles disaster, Winston’s “wilderness years” of the 30s and the efforts of him and his wife in drawing America into the Second World War are told from a perspective I have not read before. Hearing of Clementine’s views and behind-the-scenes involvement is eye-opening. I appreciated the explanation of why even after victory at the end of the Second World War Churchill failed to be reelected. Generally a victor is honored! How Churchill reacted and how Clementine reacted to losing the election in 1945 and what they felt and did is interesting to observe. I found it revealing to compare the respective couples - the Roosevelts and the Churchills. Clementine was so very different from Eleanor, yet both helped, guided and opposed their respective husband in their own way. One views markedly different personalities and different cultures. The close look at Clementine’s importance to Winston and her role in his career has not been covered with such depth in the other books I have read as it is here.

The audiobook is well narrated by Charlotte Strevens. The pronunciation is British rather than American and it should be so. It took me a while to accustom myself to this. Once I got the hang of it I had no trouble understanding. The speed was good.

I really cannot say I have any complaints with the book. I thought first I should give it five stars because of this very fact. Instead I am going by my gut reaction; I REALLY like the book so I am giving it four stars. For me a five star book has to have something that makes it shine exceptionally, an element of superb imagination. The book is a very good analysis of the complex relationships found within the Churchill family and a clear review of the individuals’ lives. There are zillions of books on Winston Churchill and his role in the wars but this book fills a gap not covered before!

Other books on the Churchills:
The Private Lives of Winston Churchill (3 stars)
Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill (4 stars)
A Daughter's Tale: The Memoir of Winston and Clementine Churchill's Youngest Child (3 stars)
Profile Image for Dem.
1,184 reviews1,082 followers
February 16, 2017
I purchased this one on audio and while the narrator is adequate I realised 30% into the audio that we would have to part company quickly as I was finding this one very boring listening and felt it was dragging and and knew I wasn't get the best from the book. I retuned it to Audible (thank you audible) and hope to purchase a hard copy of this one in the future as I do believe it deserves a second chance and hopefully my reading experience of it will be more favourable next time.

Profile Image for happy.
303 reviews91 followers
September 14, 2016
Ms Purnell has written a fascinating look at the wife of probably the 20th Century’s greatest citizen of Great Britain and maybe it’s greatest prime minister. The author had the advantage of thousands of letters and notes passed between them over the course of their lives and it allowed her to paint a very complete picture of both their personal and public relationship. To say Winston was a difficult man to live with is an understatement. Yet in over 60 yrs of marriage, there was very little hint of scandal or other people intruding into their marriage. It seems that unlike their parents they remained faithful to each other for the length of their lives together.

In telling of Clementine’s youth, the author brings up the financial difficulties that followed her mother. It got to the point the Clementine actually worked as a seamstress to help the family finances. This lack of financial resources seems to have affected Clementine’s attitude towards money throughout her marriage. Neither she nor Winston were wealthy and the author brings out that money problems were always lurking until very late in their lives. it seems that while Clementine was always worried about making ends meet, Winston spent money like he actually had it. Ms Purnell makes a point of saying that the only time in their marriage Winston deceived her is when he bought their estate at Chartwell without her knowledge.

In looking at Winston’s political career, both for very ambitious for him. They both had the the goal of his eventually gaining the Prime Ministership. It seems Clementine had a better sense of local politics and often saved Winston from himself. When that was not possible, she was instrumental at resurrecting his fortunes. One of the examples the author sites is his rejoining the Army in 1916 after his being dismissed from the government after Gallipoli. That said, he didn’t always follow her advice. Continuing the WW I example, he went to France and actually commanded a bn on the Western Front. She thought he should stay in France longer than he did and wait to be called home. After about 9 mths he was tired of France and ready to rejoin the Government, where he wasn’t wanted. As a sitting MP, he was allowed to came home but wasn’t as readily accepted as he thought he should be. It took some months before he rejoined the government as Minister of Production.

Despite her being intimately involved in his political career, they really didn’t agree on politics. One example the author cites is woman’s suffrage. She was a suffragette from an early age, but he was adamantly opposed until forced to accept the reality. When Labor overtook the Liberal Party as Britain’s second major party and Winston returned to the Tory’s, their political views rarely agreed after that. That didn’t stop her from working on his behalf and she was a major factor in keeping him in office.

About half the narrative concerns World War II. One aspect that I found interesting was how Winston used her as a confidant and an advisor. This is contrasted to FDR and Eleanor’s relationship. According to the author, FDR told his wife almost nothing about the war and she really had no input on decisions concerning major strategic matters. FDR is quoted as saying the he didn’t tell Eleanor anything because it would be in her newspaper column the next day. Clementine on the other was in attendance at major decision making conferences and Winston would bounce his thoughts off of her constantly. It was said by many of his senior officials and generals that she was the only one how could reign in many of his wilder ideas and keep him somewhat grounded in reality. An example of his trust in her is that she knew of Overlord almost from the first planning stages. This is contrasted with FDR who told his wife the night before the D-Day landings.

In addition to their public life’s successes and failures being well illustrated, their private lives are also explored. This includes their problems with their children. Their son disappointed them with his behavior and caused them many major embarrassments. When his marriage broke down, they remained extremely close to their daughter-in-law, Pamela. So close that they used her as an informal intelligence agent. It seems she slept through most of the American high command and diplomatic staff and gleaned valuable information on US attitudes and intentions from her exploits. To say their son wasn’t happy in an understatement. Two of their three daughters also had major problems throughout their live and also caused them some embarrassment.

Their living arrangements were also not typical. They both had their own rooms and interests and except at meal times were rarely in the same room at the same time. Also, they often took separate vacations. Ms Purnell says Clementine needed the time apart to recuperate and regain her strength. The author calculated that perhaps they spent only 20% of their married lives in each other’s company.

All in all this is an excellent look at one of histories greatly undervalued and under known figures. Winston Churchill definitely wouldn’t have achieved his greatness without her. This is a solid 4 star read and I highly recommend this.
Profile Image for Mikey B..
974 reviews357 followers
March 18, 2020
This is a biography of Clementine Churchill who was arguably married to one of the most significant man of the 20th century, Winston Churchill. They were married for over 55 years; it was not an easy marriage. Winston was always on the move. Clementine had to keep up and adjust to his many different roles throughout the long years.

Clementine would have to act as the antennae for Winston, as he was not very perceptive on how he was perceived by others. She would alert him to his bad behavior such as being overbearing and domineering. He would listen to her and change, though rarely apologise. Clementine was one of the few people in Churchill’s circle who was unafraid to confront him. There were frequent loud arguments!

She did support him on his general ideas, more so during the Second World War.

They had five children (one daughter Marigold died at just over two and a half years of age). They were not good parents, being frequently absent and subjecting their children to a never-ending rotation of guardians and teachers who sometimes quit because of the irascibility of the children and/or the low salary. Their son Randolph was an absolute cad and grew up to be a drunkard. There were frequent loud scenes when Randolph was present. Only their last-born daughter, Mary, was “stable”, likely because she only had one enduring governess while growing up. The author makes some comparisons between the Churchill and Roosevelt families. Both offspring had innumerable divorces and absentee parents.

And like the Roosevelts, Clementine and Winston were frequently apart, each taking independent trips, sometimes for several weeks at a time. Most of these trips were without their children.

This biography certainly emphasizes the personal, which I like. There is a chapter entitled “Operation Seduction USA” which shows how Churchills’ daughter Sarah was “involved” with Gil Winant (the newly appointed U.S. ambassador); both were married at the time. Their daughter-in-law Pamela (married to their son Randolph) was openly carrying on an affair with Averill Harriman (the U.S. lend-lease representative in London). Likely the Churchills’ felt sorry for Pamela in her tempestuous marriage with their son.

The Churchill’s marriage lasted due to Clementine’s resilience to Winston – and their love for each other. They exchanged thousands of letters to each over the years. This book covers a tumultuous inner and outer history.
Profile Image for Eileen.
427 reviews78 followers
November 23, 2015
Beguiled by Deborah Cohen’s review in the Wall Street Journal, I could hardly wait to get my hands on Clementine! She did not exaggerate! Although Winston Churchill’s pivotal role in modern history is widely recognized, little has been written about this intriguing woman and the vital part she played. Here one finds a finely drawn portrait, complete with failings as well as her numerous strengths. The mother of five children, Clementine was the first to admit that she came up short in that department. For instance, there was this astounding development after their first child was born: ‘The minute she was allowed out of bed, she deserted her husband and newborn baby, fleeing to a cottage near Brighton for ten days with Nellie, her sister.’! Winston was her world, and he was definitely quirky, with a mighty ego requiring high maintenance – a challenge for any wife! Clementine’s loyalty and devotion were significant, in fact absolutely essential to his functioning, one learns. And yet ,”There was never any question of them being in the same bed, or the same room, or even in the same part of the house, recalls their niece Clarissa Churchill. They were nowhere near each other”! Beautiful, reserved, courageous, determined Clementine! The book provides an opportunity to watch the events of that tumultuous time unfold, as well as a window on the marriage between two strong-willed, fascinating people. There were also intriguing asides, as in, ‘Emotions were heightened by the dangers of war and, as one writer put it, ‘sex’ in those early war years “hung in the air like a fog”! What a rich reading experience this was! I was loath to return the book to the library as I’d flagged so many bits to revisit!
377 reviews8 followers
March 27, 2016
There's a point where you're reading a biography that you don't like and can't figure out whether it's the author or the subject that is annoying you. The author kept telling me Mrs Churchill was a fabulous witty character, but then never gave me an example of her wit. Most of the direct quotes are from letters between her and her husband where she's nagging him about something. Mrs Churchill comes across as angry and brittle. The type of woman who gets annoyed at her husband so spends an extra month on ski holiday in the Alps to spite him. She comes across as unpleasant without being really interesting. But maybe it's just the author...
Profile Image for Caroline.
718 reviews120 followers
January 13, 2016
Unlike her American counterpart Eleanor Roosevelt, Clementine Churchill has received relatively little recognition or approbation from history. Eleanor is heralded as one of the great women of the century in her own right; indeed, she lived such a separate life from her equally famous husband Franklin Roosevelt that her role as a wife is very much the least of the hats she wore. In contrast, whatever fame or recognition Clementine has earned over the years, her name is always coupled with that of Winston, never independently.

And that is probably the way Clementine would have wanted it, as Sonia Purnell portrays in this admirable biography. Winston Churchill was Clementine's first, second and third priorities, one of her daughters once commented, only half-humorously. And he was more than enough to take up anyone's attention! History has remembered Churchill as such a colossal figure that it is more than refreshing to take a peek behind the curtain, through these pages - to see the insecure, needy, often infantile and demanding man that he was in private. It only serves to humanise him and make him, if not always a more sympathetic figure, than a more understandable one.

Whilst this is Clementine's biography it would be impossible to tell her story apart from Winston's. He was her whole world. She was always convinced of Winston's destiny of greatness, perhaps even more than he was; and that he attained the highest peaks of political life, that he came back from political exile after the Dardanelles disaster and his wilderness years, that he sustained his own and the country's vigour and morale throughout the hard years of war, that he bore the weight of the European war on his shoulders before America's entry, can in no small measure be ascribed to the emotional comfort, support and more than occasional scolding he received from his wife.

Winston and Clementine Churchill epitomise the truth of the old adage - 'behind every great man is a great woman'. It is highly unlikely that Churchill could have achieved half of what he did without Clementine, and considering how history has remembered, that is high praise indeed. That she 'managed' Churchill in a way that even his political colleagues and subordinates recognised, at the same time as playing her own public role, visiting hospitals, shelters, canteens, raising funds for appeals, playing hostess for major political and military figures, and many more wartime activities that I only learned about for the first time reading this book - one can only be grateful for Britain had not one but two Churchill's during her darkest hour.
Profile Image for Michael.
10 reviews1 follower
December 24, 2015
Clementine Churchill lived an amazing life. She was incredibly under appreciated, both in her time, and now. I feel like I know a fair amount about Eleanor Roosevelt who was an incredible advocate. Clementine Churchill may well have done more for Britain (and the free world) than Eleanor, but has received almost no credit. Born into impoverished nobility, she was about a decade younger than Winston Churchill. This book draws heavily from the copious correspondence between Winston and Clementine. They were generally not model parents, and the book does not sugar coat their shortcomings in this area. Clementine was privy to most of what Winston dealt with (including state secrets). She advised and challenged Winston, and was often the only one who could challenge him. She tempered him in many ways, and often re-wrote speeches and memos. For a book where you know how it will end (there are no secrets about history), it was a gripping read. I even pushed it ahead of other books on my "to read" pile.

Profile Image for Edith.
416 reviews
January 31, 2017
2 1/2 Stars. On the one hand, this biography opened up the world of the Churchills, and made Winston's resounding success as wartime Prime Minister even more remarkable, considering the enemy he faced and his own (and Clementine's) flaws. But they both had equally remarkable, if idiosyncratic, virtues which came perfectly into play at the nation's moment of crisis.

On the other hand, Ms. Purnell is not a particularly good writer, and has, in fact, a tin ear for language. A clunky stylist, she also misuses words like "remiss" and "diaphanous." More seriously, there are several errors of fact. (I defy you to figure out the relationship between Diana Churchill and Diana Mitford--she is variously described as Clementine's niece and as Diana C's 2nd cousin. [I think the latter is correct, unless you agree with Ms. Purnell that Clementine's biological father was Lord Redesdale!]) Ms. Purnell seems somewhat careless in small matters, which always makes me feel uneasy about the large ones.

No one who reads the chapter "A Country Basket" can emerge with their respect for the Churchills intact; they were shockingly poor parents, even in an age where aristocratic parents were distant from their children. No one who reads how Mrs. Churchill more or less "pimped out" her daughter and daughter-in-law can be edified by her behavior, even for the sake of the goals she had in doing so.

Recommended for its broad scale portrait of two immensely important personalities, neither of whom were particularly likable individuals in their personal lives--if you can tolerate a certain amount of infelicitous writing.

(By the way, though biographies of Clementine Churchill are not numerous, her daughter's biography is not the only one. There is a biography by Jack Fishman. Its main virtue may be the very interesting introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt, who often met Mrs. Churchill.)
Profile Image for Carol Bakker.
1,147 reviews77 followers
September 26, 2017
First: her name rhymes with mean, not mine. And while we're talking about words one reads but never pronounces, the audio preview taught me that brougham sounds like broom!

Purnell does a superb job explaining the complexity that is Clementine. Many people believe that Winston Churchill saved Western Civilization ... and that Clementine kept Winston sane. Both WSC and CC came from wretchedly neglectful parents. Sadly, they had serious shortcomings in their own parenting.

A few strands of my swirling thoughts:

:: She was unflinchingly respectful of the man she married. He was quirky and self-absorbed by any standard. But she held fast to her belief that he was a great man, and she never belittled him, it seems, in public or in private. On their first anniversary he wrote, I feel so safe with you & I do not keep the slightest disguise. This doesn't mean she acquiesced to whatever he said; she edited his speeches, challenged his thinking, and was hard on him, if need be.

:: Her (their) hospitality was the backbone of their anti-Hitler efforts. There was a constant flow of people into their home and at their table. Flawless hospitality became part of Winton's surprisingly inclusive political style, based on the principle that good food, wine and Clementine's charm made almost anything possible.

:: Her beauty and fashion sense were iconic. The author compares her to Jackie Onassis in her influence. Many war photos show her with a turban in her hair, a hat tip {grin} to the women working in the factories.

:: She loved a good boisterous cackle. My favorite photograph in the book is with her mouth wide open laughing.

:: She had seasons of unfathomable grief. Family deaths bunched together. And the loss, of which she never spoke, of her daughter Marigold "Duckadilly" before she was three. She was prone to depression.

:: She had Winston's complete trust and was privy to a majority of top-secret information during the war.

With Winston there was no such thing as moderation. She poured herself out, helping him, until she was empty. Then she went off for a get-away by herself for an extended time. Again and again. I think the hardest thing for me to reconcile were her many long absences when the children were very young.

The last sentence of this book was pitch perfect. A supremely satisfying end of a fascinating book.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,701 reviews736 followers
July 11, 2015
Historians have mostly ignored Mrs. Churchill. The only biographer until now was her daughter Mary Soames. Purnell appears to have been fair minded and scrupulous in her biography. The book is well written and researched. There are lots of pictures to peruse.
Purnell portrayed Clementine as a strong willed and ambitious woman who was a great support to Winston Churchill. The author, as well as many other historians, made it clear in the book that Winston Churchill was a difficult man to live with. They both were products of unstable marriages. Clementine’s mother was Lady Blanche Hosier and her husband was Colonel Henry Hosier but it is thought that Blanches, bother- in- law Lord Bertie Mitford was Clementine’s father. Blanche’s brother Lord Redesdale gave Clementine away at her wedding to Winston.
The author says that it appears both were faithful to their marriage for over 60 years. Clementine had a flirtation with a man on a cruise one time when their marriage was at a rocky point but she says nothing was acted upon. Purnell quotes Winston fondly described an enraged Clemmie as “a jaguar dropping out of a tree.”
Their mutual goal was the office of Prime Minister. Clementine had a genius both at patching up the wreckage caused by Winston’s bad decisions and at offering good advice. Clementine was a committed suffragist who unfailingly put her husband first. Their intimate relationship was crucially tested during the “wilderness years.” The Churchill's thrived on the combination of crisis and chaos. Clementine volunteered for the job of rooftop fire watcher during WWII. She was respected for her humanitarian efforts on the home front and as a great First Lady during WWII.
If you enjoy reading about the Churchill’s this is a must read book. I read the hardback book the book is 392 pages long and was published in 2015.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
834 reviews65 followers
February 14, 2017
This biography is hands down the best biography I have ever read. I'm actually really sad to be finished! I love reading about women in history and Sonia Purnell made Clementine's life absolutely fascinating. I was particularly struck by the picture of Winston and Clementine's marriage which was devoted, difficult and extremely complex. Many women would have either abandoned the kind of marriage she had or become total doormats but she did neither. Winston was clearly self-centered, demanding and often oblivious of her needs and desires. On the other hand, she was the only person he trusted to challenge him, point out his failures and champion him regardless of his flaws. I found it absolutely astounding that a woman in the early/mid 19th century was able to have such an impact simply because she was someone's wife. Both Clementine and Winston are depicted as imperfect, flawed people, neither glorified nor villified. I think one mark of a good biography is whether the reader can take away any lessons from the subject's life. I've taken away a good bit about how to both champion and challenge my husband, how to step out of my comfort zone to build him up and do what needs to be done in a crisis, and also that marriage and family and career need to be balanced (as the Churchills did not do.) Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Literary Chic.
212 reviews3 followers
April 25, 2018
Barely had time to listen to the audiobook. I definitely don’t have time for a quality review right now. However, the book was great! I’m always fascinated at hearing about “great” women’s foibles. Maybe that’s the deviant in me, but I like seeing the dichotomy of greatness and failure. It’s nice to see that even the “greats” weren’t the “perfects”...which is encouraging to me! Clementine was an excellent wife to Winston, but not a great mother. This was a great overdue biography!
70 reviews5 followers
February 18, 2018
I picked up this book after seeing "Darkest Hour," which has a formidable Clementine Churchill. It ended up being a struggle. I found the prose quite clunky, but what bothered me most is that it actually isn't really a biography of Clementine Churchill. It rushes through her early life until she meets Winston, spends most of its time on WW II, and then wraps up in a hurry once he dies. So you don't really get the impression of Clementine as an independent character; she is always defined by the people around her. First he mother (who sounds like a total character), then Winston, and later also Eleanor Roosevelt. These seem to get much more space in the book than Clementine herself, who is needed to tie together the narrative and give Winston the occasional push, but otherwise seems fairly secondary to the main historical events. It is clear that Clementine was a formidable force who made her husband what he was, but this is more the portrait of a political couple than it is a biography. Of course on a meta-level as a Roman historian who occasionally teaches gender stuff, I did find it fascinating to have a biography of a 20th-century woman flop because of the difficulties of getting at the actual subject.
Profile Image for Erica.
346 reviews4 followers
July 17, 2020
It was very interesting to learn about the woman behind the great Winston Churchill. Clementine had a rough go of it growing up and in some ways that helped her and in others it held her back. She was extremely devoted to Winston so devoted in fact that she ended up neglecting her children. Winston was very needy, selfish and relied very heavily on his wife. She often took vacations and holidays alone to recover from the toll of being available to him 24/7. She herself could be extremely demanding, not very maternal and have huge mood swings. It was neat to see how she helped Winston be the great man he needed to be during Britain's darkest hours.
Profile Image for cameron.
394 reviews98 followers
May 25, 2018
Excellent facts I never knew about her life. She was a cold and complicated character in many ways and
Lived the life of the upper classes with great verve. She managed Mr. Churchill by letting him have his way and let him pursue his priorities as he wanted and he seems to have loved her for it. Slightly dryly written but well worth the time.
I was sad to say that I didn’t like her at all.
Profile Image for Vilija|Knygų Puslapiuose.
141 reviews41 followers
April 18, 2020
Sonia Purnell "Clementine Curchill"

"Siunčiu tau šią atminimo dovaną, nors jokios dovanos negali išreikšti mano dėkingumo už tai, kad gyvendama su manimi, visus mano darbus padarei galimus"
Winstonas - Clementine per keturiasdešimtąsias jų vestuvių metines 1948 m. rugsėjo 12 d., Antibo kyšulys.

Buvau gal penktoje klasėje, kai pirmą kartą išgirdau apie Žaną d'Ark ir kodėl ji tokia žinoma. Ta asmenybė mane taip sužavėjo, jog supratau, jog istorija bus TA pamoka. Buvau jau šiek tiek vyresnė, kai ta pati nepaprasta asmenybė vėl pasirodė mano istorijos pamokų vadovėliuose. Tik tada jau supratau, kad noriu žinoti ir suprasti daugiau, kad noriu atrasti dar ne vieną tokią asmenybę. Su laiku taip ir atsitiko. Moterys istorijoje tapo mano “arkliuku”. Tas domėjimasis moterimis istorijoje nedingo ir dabar, kai esu jau suaugusi 

Dar dirbau knygyne, kai pasirodė ši biografija. Ji iš karto mane sudomino, nes biografijų apie moteris tikrai nėra labai daug. Asmeniškai, nieko nežinojau apie Winstono Churchill žmoną. O užrašas po pavadinimu “Pirmosios ledi gyvenimas ir karai” suintrigavo.

Knygoje plačiai aprašomas visas Clementine gyvenimas: vaikystė, jaunystė, santuoka su Winstonu, jų šeimyninis ir visuomeninis gyvenimas. Atrodytų, kad tai tik dar viena knyga apie garsaus politiko žmoną. Visi žinome, kas toks buvo ir kuo nusipelnęs Winstonas Churchillis, bet ar suvokiame, kad be ledi Clementinos jis galėjo toks ir nebūti?

Ledi Clementina buvo nepaprasta moteris. Tikras elegancijos pavyzdys, labai svetinga, nuoširdi ir atjaučianti paparastus žmones. Išsilavinusi ir savo nuomonę turinti dama, kuri šiais laikais pati galėtų būti Ministre Pirmininke Dižiojoje Britanijoje. Moteris nepavaldi savo laikmečiui. Ji buvo puiki patarėja savo vyrui, kuris švelniai tariant buvo tikras karštakošis ir linkęs į skubotus veiksmus ir sprendimus. Kita vertus Clementine tikrai nebuvo ta įprastinė aukštuomenės dama, kokia ji turėjo būti.

Knygoje atvirai kalbama, kad ji buvo pavydi, reikalaujanti dėmesio, šiek tiek maištinga tiems laikams (visa gyvenimą palaikė moterų teisių idėją), nemotiniška (su Winstonu turėjo penkis vaikus, nors santykiai su jais nebuvo itin šilti), valdinga ir pedantiška.

Ši biografija - tai duoklė moteriai, kuri besąlygiškai palaikė savo gyvenimo vyrą VISADA. Ji stengėsi ir palaikė Winstoną per visa jo politinę karjerą, per abu pasaulinius karus ir po jų. Šioje knygoje atskleidžiama kaip viena moteris gali pasiaukoti dėl savo šalies ir šeimos gerovės.

Negaliu likti šališka, kai kalbama apie tokią stiprią moterį kaip Clementina Churchill. Ji turėjo savo trūkumų ir jie visi čia atskleidžiami. Ir kartu tai knyga, kuri atskleidžia Churchillių šeimos kasdieninį gyvenimą, jų tarpusavio ir šeimos santykius. Sužavi jau vien faktas, kad sutuoktiniai vienas kitam parašė 1700 laiškų, telegram, raštelių. Tai kokia, ta sėkmingos ir tokios ilgos santuokos paslaptis?

Skaityti knygą nebuvo sunku ar nuobodu, nors joje tikrai labai daug faktų, pavardžių ir įvykių, nes vertimas labai kokybiškas, o pasakojimas ne sausas faktų ir įvykių kratinys. Knyga papildyta sutuoktinių susirašinėjimais, polikų mintimis apie Churchillius ir pačios Clementine mintimis. Taip pat knygoje tikrai gausu nuotraukų, kurios atskleidžia dar didesnį ledi Clementinos žavesį ir stiprybę.

Knyga tikrai patiks visiems, kas žavisi ir domisi Winstonu Churchilliu ir nori pažinti jį ne tik kaip politiką, bet kaip asmenybę, biografijų gerbėjams ir visiems, kurie išsiilgo stiprios, rimtos bet ne nuobodžios knygos.

Leidykla "Tyto alba" labai ačiū, kad išleidžiate tokių gerų knygų :)

Knygų klubas Vilniuje! labai džiaugiuosi, kad šią knygą skaitėme kartu :)
3 reviews2 followers
February 10, 2016
Not bad, but the author is trying too hard to make Clemintine the secret heroine of the Churchill story. She is overbalanced in making her case. The book is further marred, for me, by the usage of such language as schmoozing which jars one from the narrative. If the author was, indeed, privy to previously unread letters, the book does not gain by it. Closer editing would have prevented the reader from being constantly re-introduced to Churchill family members and friends. A disappointment.
Profile Image for Ann D.
99 reviews34 followers
December 21, 2020
Clementine: The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill by Sonia Purnell. Winston Churchill has fascinated me for a long time. He was bigger than life and had many flaws, but he was certainly the right leader for wartime Britain. His wife Clementine was an important factor in his success. Like Winston, she had an unhappy childhood, but rose above it. Not much was available for a very bright, ambitious, and focused young woman in her day, so she married Winston and dedicated her life to his success. Their marriage was not easy, but I don't think she ever regretted it.
23 reviews
November 13, 2015

Really enjoyed this book as it was a great history of Britain as well as an intimate look at both Churchills, their family and friends as well as some of the great leaders of their day - Roosevelt, Stalin, Clement Atlee, Averell Harriman -- it certainly knocked these people off their pedestals and gave us a look at all the skeletons in their closets.
Rather than pick on details, I tended to look at the broad picture and thoroughly enjoyed this well-written biography which was well written and gripping in many ways. To be that gripped by a book when the ending is already well known says a lot for the writing. I found myself rooting for Clementine and occasionally wishing someone would have given Winston a good boot in the butt for not appreciating all she did for him, risking her health and subverting her own interesting personality to cater to his needs.

Most people idolized Churchill and his accomplishments, and indeed, I wonder if any other politician could have saved the world from Hitler. However, this book makes it very clear that without his 'Clemmie' behind him, Winston most likely would never have succeeded. Not terribly maternal with her children, Clementine nevertheless put up with her gigantic child-like, spoiled and demanding husband, catering to his every whim and studying not only the politics but the personalities behind them in order to guide him in making intelligent decisions. Unknown to most, she became the iron hand in the velvet glove and eventually won the admiration and respect of many world leaders. She did not have an easy life, constantly fearing they could not afford his extravagant demands and habits and often living hand-to-mouth on the charity of friends.
Although we all know the outcome of the war, few of us might know the great part Winston CHurchill's wife Clementine played in it.
Profile Image for JoAn.
2,060 reviews1 follower
April 18, 2020
I found this book to be a fascinating look at a woman who has been mostly ignored by historians. The detailed research made Clementine Churchill come to life in many ways. Her support of her husband was unflagging often to her own detriment and that of their children. In her own way, she made major strides in supporting women both during both WWI and WWII even those accomplishments were never publicly appreciated. At the end of the book I did wonder if any one ever really knew Clementine Churchill.
Profile Image for Ana Castro.
244 reviews69 followers
February 2, 2023
« Atrás de um grande homem está sempre uma grande mulher ».
O ditado popular é confirmado muitas vezes em relação a varios casais conhecidos .
Clementine, mulher de Churchill , soube estar atrás à frente e ao lado do seu marido desde o início do seu casamento.
Com ele teve 5 filhos.
Enfrentaram juntos duas guerras mundiais, com ele viveu períodos de bem estar e outros bastante difíceis.
Li há pouco tempo um livro sobre Churchill.
Gostei de ler este mais focado em Clementine e nas relações entre os membros da família .
Demorei bastante tempo pois li-o em inglês o que me dá sempre mais trabalho .
Acho que Sónia Purnell fez um bom trabalho de pesquisa baseando-se tanto nas várias biografias de Churchill como nas cerca de 700 cartas que eles se escreveram.

Numa delas Churchill dizia-lhe: “My greatest good fortune in a life of brilliant experience has been to find you & to lead my life with you…”
Ainda bem que reconheceu o valor e a ajuda que a sua mulher lhe deu.
Clementine devido à sua energia e inteligência, não foi apenas o simples adorno dum homem poderoso .
Foi um casamento longo e como todos os casamentos feito de bons e maus momentos, de união nas coisas fundamentais e de grandes discussões noutras.
Se Churchill se tivesse casado com uma outra mulher, talvez não tivesse sido o colosso político maior de todos os tempos e a história da Europa e de nós todos não teria sido certamente a mesma.
Um bom livro .

Profile Image for Susan O.
276 reviews97 followers
January 28, 2016
This is a well-written comprehensive biography of a woman who probably hasn't gotten enough credit for her contribution to the war effort. I'm speaking from the perspective of an outsider, an American, as opposed to a citizen of Great Britain. Perhaps Clementine's work is better known and appreciated within her own country. It seems as though it was at the time, although the extent of her involvement in and knowledge of high level meetings probably wasn't known.

I'm left wondering if Winston Churchill would have made it through WWII if it weren't for Clementine. (She would probably be appalled at my use of her first name here.) She certainly made her own contributions in organizing the work of women and concerning herself with the people, such a equipping air raid shelters, but managing Winston and taking care of him was probably her greatest contribution. He was not an easy man to work for or with and she often acted as a buffer as well as being the only person who could approach him about certain things. She also was much more aware of how his actions were perceived among his staff and the public. I was surprised at how much more politically astute she was than Winston.

I went into this book without much knowledge of the Churchills, but it did help to have a basic knowledge of the world events that happened during their lives, especially WWII. I probably enjoyed the early part of the book more than the latter. Near the end of the war, it often seemed like a recitation of events with their reactions to them. However, the Epilogue was moving. It gave you a sense of how much less stress was in Clementine's life after Winston died, yet at the same time how much she loved him.

It was not a perfect marriage, nor was Clementine a perfect woman. Purnell shows us the woman and the couple with both their good qualities and bad. But that's what a good biography should do. And this was an excellent biography. I recommend it.

Profile Image for Margo .
101 reviews28 followers
January 7, 2018
An intimate biography of a powerful woman, a woman behind a "throne" of one of the most powerful, influential men of our times. I have to confess that I do not like biographies. For me they are dull and too full of put-you-to-sleep details. I read this book for a book club and though I did like it I allowed myself to be distracted by my interesting fictional books.
There is a lot of detail and some of it is a little heavy handed but for the most part Ms. Purnell manages to eliminate the non-essential and focus on personalities and events in a way that enlightens rather than dulls reading. There is a fair amount of information about what Winston was doing at any particular time, but that is necessary to cast light on what Clementine was reacting to. Through this book I came to admire a woman who has had little written about her. I must be picky about two assessments in the book - Ms. Purnell's assessment on snobbish put downs of Churchill's depression (he called it his black dog, and her equally snobby assessment of Clementine's health calling it hypochondria. I almost had to laugh a both these comments. Ms. Purnell is neither a doctor or medical person nor has she seemed to know much about depression. She seems to think that just because Winston could successfully work he did not have depression.
The most interesting sections for me where her meeting Eleanor Roosevelt and the author's comparison to the two women. Second the narration of Clementine's efforts during WWII to make sure citizen needs for medical supplies and the like where met. Third was the details on her family and the lack-a-lusher children she had.
This is a very good book for people who like biographies and a decent book for those who do not.
590 reviews14 followers
November 16, 2016
As with so many bios that purport to explain the women behind the men, this one is replete with contradictory facts and opinions about Clemmie. Examples of her perfectionism, her cold aloofness, her preoccupation with form over substance stand side by side with notes to Winston that are politically sophisticated and show a sensitivity to the feelings of others which she seldom displayed in her interpersonal relationships. Her children mostly hated her; their lives were disorderly and unfulfilled with the exception of daughter Mary who was not raised by a succession of incompetent young nannies, but by a solid woman who stayed with her for many years. Mary escaped the instability and chaos that was the personal life of the family, and so had a firmer foundation for living a happy life. I have read about other women who chose their husbands or careers to the detriment of their children and who were unable to form attachments to their kids, including Nancy Reagan and Eleanor Roosevelt, but Clemmie seems particularly divorced from herself and all other human persons. I can't say I really admire her after reading this book despite her service to her husband, England, and the world during WWII. Recognizing her value, I still hold her neglect of her children against her somehow. Her daughter Marigold might have died anyway, but the absence of any parental concern certainly contributed.
Profile Image for Mary Miller.
2 reviews5 followers
May 1, 2017
Although she seems to have had all the mothering instincts of a crocodile, which is no small wonder considering her own abysmal upbringing, Clementine Churchill's contribution to victory in WWII is an achievement which outshines any other faults in her character. She had the complete trust and admiration of her husband, Winston, and as a result gained access to cabinet level information regarding the war and advised not only her husband, but British generals and intelligence gatherers on strategy. Her keen eye for politics, wit, charm, and her ability to "read a room," often, perhaps not often enough, saved her husband from his own, sometimes ham handed, insensitive nature. It is not hyperbole to say that without Clementine Churchill, Lend Lease would have been a non starter in the US congress, and the war in Europe could not have been won. By today's nomenclature, it might be said that the Churchill's marriage was built upon insecurities and co-dependance. Perhaps this is a fair assessment, but the greater good was certainly served, even at the cost of the Churchill children's happiness.
Profile Image for Elsbeth Kwant.
334 reviews21 followers
February 20, 2019
Very pleasant read. Another example of greatness in some areas coming at a price in others. Clementine Churchill was like a compass to her husband, a husband who - as one of their children remarked 'always came first, second and third'. She was a talented organiser, playing such a role in the First World War (Canteens), as in the Second (the Soviet fund). But her life was one she could only live as on a light switch: on, when with Winston, turning off as soon as she could without him. One of their close attendants reckoned they spent 80% of their sixty year marriage apart. Two strong people, creating around them an atmosphere of buoyancy and generosity, as well as draining everyone around them. I read it with pleasure, loving the nice detail that Clementine Churchill will be remembered in her family for organizing the best family Christmases ever.
Profile Image for Jo Ann.
594 reviews13 followers
January 1, 2017
Clementine (pronounced "Clementeen,") Churchill is perhaps one of the least known characters in world history who had a phenomenal contribution to its history! I am absolutely taken aback by the fact that so little has been known about this woman who so dramatically influenced Winston Churchill! Why have we not known about her, when her guidance and caring made such a difference in 2 wars, via her husband? She wasn't perfect...she was a terrible mother, for one thing, but her goal was to dedicate herself to her husband, an egotistical, sometimes uncaring man...and she did just that. I cannot stop thinking about Clementine, and I'm so fortunate to have read this book, given to me by son, Jeremy.
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