THE PRIVATE LIVES OF WINSTON CHURCHILL by John Pearson

THE PRIVATE LIVES OF WINSTON CHURCHILL

KIRKUS REVIEW

 It may be hard to write anything new about Winston Churchill, but it is even harder to write anything dull about him, as Pearson (The Selling Of the Royal Family, 1986; The Serpent and the Stag, 1984, etc.) proves again here. Pearson's inquiry into Churchill's private life began with his interest in the tragic deaths of three of Churchill's four children: Diana, who killed herself, and Randolph and Sarah, whose drunken escapades became notorious. Mary, the wife of successful Tory politician Christopher Soames, was the only one of Churchill's children to lead a balanced, normal life. Why? Pearson has found some obvious answers, and some more unexpected. It is well known that Churchill's father, Lord Randolph, gave little attention to his son, whom he thought stupid, leaving Winston with an enduring need to prove himself. It is less well known that, as Pearson reveals, Churchill's wife, Clementine, was probably the daughter of one of her mother's lovers, perhaps even, by an irony, a man who was also a lover of Churchill's mother. Churchill's desire to provide a more loving family environment was negated by his ambitions and way of life, and by Clementine, whose energy and interest in her children were never very great. As a result, the children alternated between outrageous pampering, little discipline, and outright neglect. The love affair between Winston and Clementine, often portrayed as idyllic, appears to have been something less than that, with Clementine often overwhelmed by her husband's galvanic energies, deep depressions, boisterous friends, and reckless spending. The explanation for all this may be found more in the conventions of the Victorian era and in the selfishness of a man of towering ambition than in the ``cunning and ruthlessness of the egomaniacal genius'' depicted in the publisher's blurb, but Pearson offers solid insight into one of the most remarkable public men of the century. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-671-63153-5
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1991




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