Marie Benedict Presents the Woman who Made Churchill
Though history often remembers the many great (and not-so-great) men to have accomplished extensive deeds, they are generally presented as solitary figures, almost as if they had achieved everything they did on their own. Perhaps somewhat sadly, as the years go by the memories of all the surrounding people who helped those historical figures achieve immortality start to slip from our consciousness.
In some cases, this doesn’t mean too great of a loss, but in others it means we’re essentially getting an inaccurate portrayal of history. Numerous authors have tried to seal these gaps in our knowledge, and Marie Benedict certainly belongs to this exclusive club with her latest novel, Lady Clementine.
Winston Churchill is a man who needs very little introduction I believe; while in times of peace he might not have made history, he was largely the kind of leader the United Kingdom needed during the Second World War. In spite of many assassination attempts and some terrible health habits, he successfully left his mark in our history books. However, like most great men throughout history, he likely wouldn’t have come nearly as far without his faithful wife at his side, the titular Lady Clementine.
Focusing on her storied and at times strange life, the novel draws heavily from historical sources and puts together a narrative which follows her from her formative years to the end of the Second World War.
We get to see the many secrets she kept throughout her life, the unexpected roles she was asked to fulfill, and the many struggles she faced as both a mother and wife to a husband who was far from immune to political blunders. In the end, it’s the story of one woman who quietly carved out an important place for herself in history, and was unknowingly instrumental in her husband’s worldwide fame.
A Profound Portrayal of Lady Clementine
To begin with, I would like to address the fact of this book being a novel, despite coming close to presenting itself a historical work. From the very first pages it is plain as day the amount of research done into the titular woman was extremely profound and extensive.
From my understanding, it wasn’t designed as a novel to fill in gaps where the author wanted to let her imagination fly, but rather to present a cohesive and compelling narrative which might hook us for more than the mere information it provides us with.
Personally, I love the slower-paced and detailed approach Benedict took to writing Lady Clementine’s story, seldom skimping on the details of not only her external life, but also her inner world. We become fairly well-acquainted with her ambitions, fears, desires and plans for life, and we see them all slowly evolving as she grows older, wiser and more experienced.
It was especially interesting to see her increasingly successful attempts at navigating the political world her husband was often bumbling through and the many steps she took behind the scenes to help him succeed.
While learning about the many things she did, we are also learning about her as a person through her many interactions with other people, largely her husband. While I can’t say I’ve ever heard the couple speaking to each other, it felt to me like the author must have been spot-on with the tone of their conversations. Sometimes humorous, at other times insightful, they always felt very natural and lively in a way only British conversations can be.
Life Worthy of a Novel
While first and foremost this is a biographical work which aims to acquaint us with a real person, as I mentioned before, it remains a novel for the purpose of presenting us with a compelling narrative we can take pleasure in following.
In regards to this aspect of her book, I feel Benedict did a fantastic job at drumming up tension and excitement where possible without ever going over the top. Though her life has been accounted for long ago, I still couldn’t help but almost constantly feel the sort of excitement which comes when we’re about to learn something new in a plot we care about.
The main source of interest, for me at least, came from seeing how she helped her husband navigate the world of politics, something seemingly neither of them were very good at.
It is both interesting and endearing to see her try and fix his clumsy mistakes and serve as his guide on many occasions, despite having no real training in this domain herself. There are even a few moments which feel reminiscent of a romantic comedy.
Her domestic life was also nothing to scoff at, having to raise five children on top of everything else her schedule was packed with. There are many interesting ruminations about motherhood, marriage and family responsibility which I am certain will resonate with anyone who has experienced those things. In the end, the more we learn about this woman, the deeper we get into her life, successes and failures, the more we are revealed a life worthy of true respect.
The Final Verdict
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict is an excellent biographical novel drawing attention to an important figure in history who is often overshadowed by the man she stood beside. In addition to being deeply educative, it also offers a captivating narrative which maintains its allure from start to finish. If you are interested in the lives of the Churchill’s, or even in the general state of the United Kingdom during the Second World War, then I strongly recommend you give this book a read.
Marie Benedict is an author and lawyer with the distinction of having being a magna cum laude graduate of the Boston College with a focus in History and Art History, as well as a cum laude graduate of the Boston University School of Law.
In addition to having more than then years of experience as a litigator, Benedict also found her hand in writing historically-oriented books, including the novels Carnegie’s Maid and The Other Einstein as well as the non-fiction book The Only Woman in the Room.