Editorial note: I received a copy of Lady Clementine in exchange for a review.
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict focuses on the life and influence of Clementine Churchill during the WWI and WWII eras.
In my opinion, historical fiction is at its best when it gives voices to women of the past. It’s no secret that history courses taught in schools focus on the men of history. So I was quite excited to dive into Lady Clementine and learn more about Clementine Churchill.
We all know the imposing force of Winston Churchill but Lady Clementine follows the ambitious woman beside him. This is the story of a partner who did not flinch through the sweeping darkness of war, and who would not surrender either to expectations or to enemies. In fact, it’s very apparent that without the influence of Clementine Churchill, the entire world could have looked very differently after WWII.
First person perspective
We read the story from Clementine’s perspective. The story follows her courtship with Winston to the brutal hardships of war to the eventual victory of WWII. Clementine remains a stable force for Winston, even if it forces her to make sacrifices of her own. This novel very much focuses on history, politics and crucial decisions. The softer side of Clementine is a bit muted until she goes by herself on a cruise where she finally is able to relax. But even that is short-lived as she gets back into the action immediately when she returns.
For true history buffs
Clementine is quite honest, especially at her lack of maternal instinct and eventual perceived failures as a mother. She believes she has a different calling; one that forces her to focus on politics so that she can be a guiding hand for Winston. We do get a glimpse of why her and Winston fell for each other and of their constant companionship. But it felt a bit closed off in parts; almost as if reading a biography that keeps the subject at somewhat of a distance. It probably did fit with the true personality of Clementine—she’ll only reveal so much about how she’s truly feeling.
That said, the story really takes off when it enters the WWII era. There is plenty of historical context and a behind-the-scenes look at the political process. For those who love history, you’ll read with interest about the thought process behind legendary speeches that still resonate to this day.
A seat at the table
It’s pretty telling how Clementine was truly a huge influence on Winston but yet, history books seems to leave her out completely. I do think it’s very important we have books like this out in the world that will, hopefully, influence people to look more up about women like Clementine Churchill. Some interesting sections are when she’s somewhat pushed aside by Winston, she always calls him out on it and he quickly apologizes. It seems he didn’t always know how to handle a smart and capable companion. We like to think we’ve come along way since the 1940s but as the U.S. has never elected a woman president—we still have a long ways to go.
Final review thoughts: Lady Clementine is for history buffs who want to learn more about a figure who helped shape the world as we know it.
For book clubs, check out my discussion questions here.