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Lady Clementine

by Marie Benedict

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict X
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
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  • Published:
    Jan 2020, 336 pages

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Davida Chazan

More Daring than Darling
Benedict uses her straightforward and uncompromising literary style to focus this novel mostly on Clementine’s life starting from when she met Winston in 1904, through 1945. That means the book encompasses both world wars. Think about it… to put 41 (very eventful) years into just under 340 pages is no small accomplishment. To achieve this, Benedict did some very careful picking and choosing, so that the events that got into the book were almost only those where Clementine’s involvement was either obvious, or should have been much more discernible. For example, Benedict describes the open secret that Clementine helped Winston write most of his speeches and had a large hand in editing his writings.

Benedict also shows Clementine meeting with international heads of state, even in situations where she was the only spouse in the room. There’s also the relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt, the famously heavy-handed and highly influential wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was the US President during almost all of WWII. The parallels Benedict drew between these two women was probably my favorite part of this novel, since they were truly the proverbial “two peas in a pod”! Think about it – FDR had his debilitating Polio (albeit before he became president), and Winston almost died of pneumonia while he was PM during WWII. These wives nursed their husbands, knowing full well that their husbands’ political careers would take front and center the moment they were once again physically able.

I think what impressed me the most about this novel was how Benedict succeeded in making all of it – even the places where Clementine wasn’t playing an instrumental part – truly Clementine’s story. That doesn’t mean that she ignored Winston here, but rather that we saw it all through Clementine’s eyes, through her emotions, through her feelings, and through her own actions (or inaction, as sometimes the case might have been).

Benedict also suggests that Clementine was very self-aware regarding her own inadequacies and ineffectiveness, and in fact more than implies that Clementine suffered from no small amount of emotional distress that might have had an impact on her mental health. I don’t know if this is factually correct, since my copy of the ARC didn’t have any author’s notes included, but it certainly sounded plausible to me.

What I’m saying here is that essentially, this is precisely the type of novel that I look for in women’s, biographical, historical fiction. Benedict’s precise, practically surgical selection of events shows Clementine as not just a strong supporter of her husband, but a tough, intelligent, leader of a woman in her own right, and one who doesn’t hesitate to take action, even when its controversial, or when failure is lurking in the shadows. Clementine isn’t simply a bystander or witness, because she’s practically on the front lines of every battle, even when she’s behind the scenes pulling her own strings. It seems very strange for me to say this of the first book of 2020, but I must give this novel a full five out of five stars. Benedict has outdone herself here, and I cannot recommend this book warmly enough.
Power Reviewer
Wendy F. (Kalamazoo, MI)

Bravo to Clemmie!!
I knew very little about Clementine Churchill before reading this book. Now I just want to learn more. She was a formidable woman who truly was the strength behind one of the most powerful men in the world at the time. It hearkens back to the relationship between Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. This book is well written, and I lost myself in its beautiful prose. Looking forward to reading more by Marie Benedict. She is a superb historical writer.
Annette S. (Duluth, GA)

Lady Clementine
Marie Benedict author of several books about little known women in history has created a very readable compelling tale of historical fiction about Clementine Churchill. The author portrays a very realistic picture of the victories and trials of what it was like to be the wife of a powerful statesman and also provides the reader a very personal look at the Churchill family. Clementine supported Winston Churchill through the decades of his political and military roles. She was always supportive as together they weathered two world wars, but never relinquished her independence or her own values. Lady Clementine joins Benedict's other successful books about the little known roles of devoted women and is a compelling tale of historical fiction.
Linda S. (Milford, CT)

Lady Clementine
I thoroughly enjoyed Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict. At their wedding in 1908, the bishop described Clementine's future as "an unwritten chapter" (page 22) along with "influence...exercised for good upon their husband's lives." She was 23 to his 34. She wanted to write her own chapter and prayed that Winston would hand her the pen. So began an incredible journey together. Winston called her Clemmie or Cat and later on his secret weapon. She called him Pug. They loved each other deeply. Clemmie was a dynamic and intelligent helpmate to him from the very beginning and especially when he became Prime Minister. While they maintained separate bedrooms because he often worked so late, Clemmie left him 'invitations'.

He relied on her, for her invaluable and honest advice and later her input on his speech writing. She was a natural at it. It was so refreshing to read about a woman who stood beside and not behind a great man. They had their share of sorrow. While Clementine loved her children, she felt guilty that she wasn't the most loving of mothers but she needed to be her own woman too. They had several excellent governesses while the children were growing up.

Winston was not always popular but Clementine was always there to build him up. During the beginning of the Nazi reign, she charmed Roosevelt's emissary into interceding for their help in joining the war effort. When the bombing began, Clementine was instrumental in having decent bomb shelters built, knowing that their citizens spent many hours in them. They both felt strongly about visiting them as well. They did not suffer that terrible war lightly.

I think this is an excellent book for discussion.
Librarian, Public Library, OH

An Amazing Novel about an Amazing Woman
Lady Clementine is an outstanding novel about a woman the world knows so little about. I know that I love a novel, when it keeps me up at night and I would rather read than sleep. I felt like I was walking with her along the many twists and turns of her life.

Winston Churchill's reputation and amazing accomplishments are known internationally. This novel draws a spotlight on Clementine Churchill's enormous roles in his life, in Great Britain and in the world. Note: Clementine is pronounced Clemen-teen, which is an important distinction with a name that we associate with an entirely different impression.

Erin Blakemore writes, "Clementine Churchill's life is little remembered, but she was a driving force behind the great statesman." for History.com online. I cannot say it any better.

The author clearly has done enormous research about Clementine and written a book that makes her story come alive for me and many other readers. British culture now and during WWI and WWII has some striking differences to American culture; I reveled in exploring the royal and political worlds I shall never live in. Thank you, Marie Benedict.
Cindy B

Lady Clementine
The author gives readers a behind the scenes view of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s life together providing a look into how this “power” couple worked together navigating the fate of their country during two wars. The author shares their successes and failures with the reader as well as ambitious Clementine’s struggles to balance running a household, being a mother and standing beside her husband to serve her country. I was surprised to learn that Lady Clementine was responsible for involving woman in the war effort. The fast paced book kept my interest as I felt my admiration for Mrs Churchill grow.
Karna B. (Long Beach, CA)

Lady Clementine
A thoroughly delightful, informative read both from the historical and personal standpoint. The strength, intelligence, and energy that Lady Clementine possesses is fully realized. Clementine is portrayed as Winston's partner in both love and war. Her involvement in WWII sheds new light as least from my perspective. I was grabbed from the first page and can easily recommend this book.
Wanda T. (The Villages, FL)

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
I have always been curious about the women in the lives of famous men, how they handled the publicity surrounding them and what their lives were like. Lady Clementine is one of those books. I had no idea how important she was to Winston Churchill nor did I have any clue of her influence to his decisions. This story takes the reader from their meeting and courtship right through WWII. I felt as if I were reading her personal diary. I realize this is historical fiction but it is obvious how much research was done for the accuracy of some events. I have read all of Marie Benedict's books and she never disappoints!
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