Churchill’s Home Front

Winston Churchill is one of the most closely examined (and lionized) of all politicians, and it is accordingly difficult to think of new angles from which to view him and his legacy.  But now here are two original and complementary studies coming at once, one profiling his wife, Clementine, the other examining the impressive public figure through his unimpressive private finances.  Both books are not quite the first words on their subjects, but both are also likely to prove the last, establishing themselves in the extensive Churchillian historiography as the go-to texts for future inquirers.

It is strange that a major biography of Clementine—a charismatic, clever, and strong-minded person who, as Sonia Purnell demonstrates, exerted a salutary and at times world-altering influence over her husband—should not have been written sooner.  Churchill’s physician once observed that his eminent patient’s conviction began “in his own bedroom,” and the siren-suited symbol of “standing alone” occasionally referred to Clementine, only half-jokingly, as “She-whose-commands-must-be-obeyed.”  Clementine, the author avers, “relentlessly privileged the national interest above her own health, safety and family,” alternating pillow talk, blazing rows, walkouts, and creative economizing with elegant hospitality, informal diplomacy, proficient public relations,...

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