WINSTON AND CLEMENTINE: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Churchills by Richard Hough

WINSTON AND CLEMENTINE: The Triumphs and Tragedies of the Churchills

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This potentially fascinating examination of Churchill's private life ends up pallid and oddly biased against his loyal, long-suffering wife--who gets scant attention, and even that unsympathetic, from Hough (The Greatest Crusade, 1985; Born Royal, 1988; The Battle of Britain, 1989, etc.). Ostensibly a dual biography, this is slanted toward Winston: of 12 chapters that trace their premarriage lives, Winston gets 11; Clementine, the beautiful descendant of Scot aristocrats he wed in 1908, only one. The rest of the book, save for an occasional unconvincing denial of the obvious (e.g., the death of Winston's father Lord Randolph Churchill from syphilis), differs little from the story outlined by previous memoirists and biographers, following their marriage through Winston's youthful rise to power, his fall after the Gallipoli disaster of WW I, his return to politics, his ""wilderness years"" as an ignored backbench m.p., his glory years as Hitler's nemesis, and his slow physical decline and death in 1965. Hough is so enthralled by Churchill--whose activities as a naval administrator he has chronicled in nine previous books--that he continually lets Clementine fade into Winston's shadow. Whenever she enters the spotlight, it is usually as a shrew, sniping at many of Winston's fellow pols and withholding affection from their children. Moreover, Hough never sufficiently credits Clementine for coping with her remarkable yet difficult husband--an often inconsiderate egotist who disregarded her warnings against political snakes in the grass, and whose gambling and extravagance kept the family near financial ruin throughout his career. For more balanced and spirited biographies that spell out Churchill's petty faults as husband and outsized virtues as statesman, look to daughter Mary Soames's Clementine Churchill (1979), or, better yet, William Manchester's ongoing, magnificent The Last Lion (1983, 1988).

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Bantam