Book 27: First Lady by Sonia Purnell

Without Churchill’s inspiring leadership Britain could not have survived its darkest hour
and repelled the Nazi menace. Without his wife Clementine, however, he might never have become Prime Minister. By his own admission, the Second World War would have been ‘impossible without her’. Clementine was Winston’s emotional rock and his most trusted confidante; not only was she involved in some of the most crucial decisions of war, but she exerted an influence over her husband and the Government that would appear scandalous to modern eyes.

I don’t really ever read biographies and maybe this is an interesting introduction to them which will persuade me to read others. It was a real eye opener into the life and times of women in that they really were treated as second class citizens, more as adornments to their husbands than people in their own right. So maybe war, even World War I and II though a huge price to pay for the beginning of emancipation of women, had a positive “silver lining”. The marriage of 2 people, both from dysfunctional family backgrounds, seemed to determine them to sustain their love for one another but at the cost of their children’s stability, apart from the youngest, Mary, who seemed to be more stable than the rest. How Clementine continued in her efforts to promote her husband’s career path to the goal of being elected Prime Minister of UK shows her determination and ambition. Not for herself did she demand recognition but through Winston Churchill’s rise to fame. He was so difficult that I for one could not have put up with his chauvinism, mood swings and bloody mindedness and would have left him to his downfall but she was a very determined lady who was content to enjoy his reflected glory, aware that she had been instrumental in its achievement. Theirs was not a conventional marriage but one that lasted through thick and thin. He was a difficult man, “50% genius, 50% bloody fool”, but his saving grace was that he loved and respected his wife and relied totally on her as a sounding board, an amazing feat for Clementine as Churchill did not hold other women’s intellect too highly. I enjoyed learning about the intricacies of Churchill’s rise and fall from grace, the way in which Clementine orchestrated his return to favour and the fascinating insight into the life and times of those in power in the time during, between and after the 2 World Wars.  I felt a real sadness that her being a stickler for detail almost made her life a misery as it really took its toll on her health or she was a bit of a hypochondriac seeking attention in the only way she could. I was left with mixed feelings; a sad read but a very interesting insight into the life and times of the elite and influential. Not my favourite read as I wanted to plough through it and it was at times hard going to begin with. 3/5

This book gives a very comprehensive account of Clementines life and the role she played as wife of Winston Churchill. It portrays the lives of the middle and upper classes during the war in sharp contrast to the lives of the working class  who were given little consideration. It also shows a very unattractive side to politics. I whilst I found it an interesting read I felt as though I was reading a history book rather than a novel! 3/5



About Great Big Jar

Life is like a box of chocolates - well, it would be but I ate them all! I am a writer of children's stories and rhymes. I am currently testing the waters with two new stories for 8+ and 11+ readers - a new exciting genre to sink my teeth into. Drop by and say hello
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