Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Book Review: That Churchill Woman by Stephanie Barron

Pages: 400
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Pub. Date: January 29, 2019
Publisher: Ballantine
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Wealthy, privileged, and fiercely independent New Yorker Jennie Jerome took Victorian England by storm when she landed on its shores. As Lady Randolph Churchill, she gave birth to a man who defined the twentieth century: her son Winston. But Jennie--reared in the luxury of Gilded Age Newport and the Paris of the Second Empire--lived an outrageously modern life all her own, filled with controversy, passion, tragedy, and triumph.  When the nineteen-year-old beauty agrees to marry the son of a duke she has known only three days, she's instantly swept up in a whirlwind of British politics and the breathless social climbing of the Marlborough House Set, the reckless men who surround Bertie, Prince of Wales. Raised to think for herself and careless of English society rules, the new Lady Randolph Churchill quickly becomes a London sensation: adored by some, despised by others.  Artistically gifted and politically shrewd, she shapes her husband's rise in Parliament and her young son's difficult passage through boyhood. But as the family's influence soars, scandals explode and tragedy befalls the Churchills. Jennie is inescapably drawn to the brilliant and seductive Count Charles Kinsky--diplomat, skilled horse-racer, deeply passionate lover. Their impossible affair only intensifies as Randolph Churchill's sanity frays, and Jennie--a woman whose every move on the public stage is judged--must walk a tightrope between duty and desire. Forced to decide where her heart truly belongs, Jennie risks everything--even her son--and disrupts lives, including her own, on both sides of the Atlantic.  Breathing new life into Jennie's legacy and the gilded world over which she reigned, That Churchill Woman paints a portrait of the difficult--and sometimes impossible--balance between love, freedom, and obligation, while capturing the spirit of an unforgettable woman, one who altered the course of history."
Jennie Jerome comes from a wealthy American family during the Gilded Age and it was very common for many women during the time period to travel to England to obtain an aristocratic husband.  Except Jennie isn't your usual American wallflower. She's energetic, she's opinionated, she's independent, she's beautiful and she enjoys sex. (Gasp!)  When she meets Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill, she is instantly drawn to him and his brains.  He actually talks to her about things that matter and in turn, he matters to Jennie.  Once they marry, years go by and she truly enters the limelight when he enters Parliament.  She is just as important to her husband's political career as he is, especially when it comes to socializing with the Prince of Wales.  While visiting Sandringham without her husband and dining with the Prince and his friends, she meets Count Charles Kinsky.  She gets to know him that weekend and things turn into much more than friendship.  But she is playing with fire as she is not only jeopardizing her husband's career, but she has her sons' futures to think about too and one of those sons is none other than the famous Winston Churchill.  Jennie Jerome lived a fascinating life and Stephanie Barron depicted it very well in That Churchill Woman.

To be honest, I really didn't know much about Winston Churchill's mother, Jennie Jerome, before reading That Churchill Woman. I actually didn't even realize she was American. (Oops!)  How did I miss that?  So, immediately I was drawn into Jennie's history and her relationship with Winston.  While I didn't like her as much as Alva Vanderbilt, she was a contemporary of Alva's and I think being in Victorian England made it a little harder for her to be as unconventional as Alva.  Jennie had to play more of a game politically and plant seeds in people's minds. I also appreciated her loyalty to her family and even her husband when he didn't deserve it in the very least. Now that is not to say she didn't have affairs, because she did, but it wasn't like her husband was loyal to her either.  Like Alva, Jennie broke social norms and challenged society regarding a woman's place in society.

I always wondered how Winston Churchill became such a formidable adult and now I know it came from his mother who was always supporting him.  Essentially, Jennie had to choose what was right for herself and her heart or what was right for her sons and I admired that she always had her sons' backs even when their father didn't care too much in That Churchill Woman.

I think books like That Churchill Woman are a reminder that behind every great man is an even greater woman and often women's stories go untold. I am glad I was able to learn more about Jennie Jerome and her fascinating life.  Instead of thinking her as scandalous, as many historians would want me to believe, I like to think of her as independent and before her time. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially featuring strong women, check out That Churchill Woman.  


2 comments:

  1. I admit, I know nothing about Winston Churchill's mother - but it's so interesting that she was American!

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    Replies
    1. Right? I somehow missed that fact when learning about Churchill and visiting his War Rooms in London. She was very fascinating and sort of explains where he got his formidable personality from. Thanks for visiting, Angela.

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