Clementine Churchill: A Life in Pictures by Sonia Purnell

Having read Clementine (also by Sonia Purnell) years ago, Clementine Churchill: A Life in Pictures (obtained through #NetGalley) was like taking a nice refresher course. At a little over two hundred pages and filled with pictures, this is a faster read than Purnell’s first book, yet it gives an equally comprehensive view of Clementine Churchill’s life; call it the abridged and illustrated version.

Even if you don’t plan to read every word in the book and just focus on the beautiful pictures, you’ll still learn a lot about Clementine through the highlighted quotes and photo descriptions. The pictures do a better job than words ever could in showing the importance of Clementine’s public side, a part of her life many people probably are not aware of. Clementine Churchill certainly personified the “woman behind the man.” Winston Churchill was not the easiest man to live with, but she had an equally strong personality, most of it shaped during her difficult childhood. It is argued in the book, probably rightly so, that Winston Churchill would not have reached the heights he did without the help of his wife.

Clementine Churchill strikes a good balance between the private and public side of its subject. While the text in this book is illuminating, albeit a little one sided in favor of the Churchills, the photographs are what make this a winner. Not only does it give a good view of Clementine’s life, but it also offers an insight into what life was like at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century. The picture which struck me most was of Clementine Churchill with Eleanor Roosevelt, a woman I have admired for a very long time. It is obvious that they were more alike than I ever expected, but Sonia Purnell has a distinct preference for the Churchills which felt quite annoying at times. It is easy for a biographer to fall in love with its subject, but a little more objectivity would have made this a five-star book in my account.


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