Spanning the years from 1908 to 1945, this novel describes the demanding role of Lady Clementine Churchill, the wife of Winston Churchill. Not only does it provide a picture of this woman as she interacts with her powerful husband, but it also provides a nuanced view of the prime minister through the two world wars, a slightly different perspective from his biographers. Clementine (whose name, the author explains, rhymes with Jacqueline) is a social outsider to Winston’s set, as she has had a bohemian upbringing. For example, she is a suffragette and shares her opinions on national policy with politicians invited to dinner, behavior not common in her day. She also edits Winston’s speeches. Along with these qualities today’s readers likely admire, she has certain less positive attributes. Chief among these, for many readers, is her uncertainty as a mother. She largely leaves the raising of her children to nannies, and this does have some sad consequences.
Benedict does an effective job of describing the ups and downs of a long marriage with a difficult man, whose demands on his wife are endless. We empathize with the stresses she is under and comprehend her need to get away on her own from time to time. We certainly applaud her strength and willingness to stand up for what she believes.