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American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill Hardcover – November 17, 2007

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American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill + Jennie: The Life of the American Beauty Who Became the Toast--and Scandal--of Two Continents, Ruled an Age and Raised a Son-Winston Churchill-Who Shaped History + Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Daughter and a Mother in the Gilded Age
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st American Ed edition (November 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393057720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393057720
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 6.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #874,333 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

As Winston Churchill's mother and close adviser, Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome (1854–1921) may have rated a chapter in the history books. But steeped in scandal, the passionate, ambitious and beautiful Gilded Age heiress has been fodder for several biographies of her own, including Ralph Martin's two-volume bestseller (1969–1971). The daughter of a maverick stock speculator, Jennie was probably pregnant with Winston when she married the duke of Marlborough's second son, Randolph. She was a tireless supporter of her husband's rising political career, and endured his sexual dalliances, mental unraveling (probably from syphilis) and eventual death. She earned a reputation as a journalist, dazzling socialite, shameless booster of Winston's political aspirations, and as a financially imprudent woman who indulged in a string of sexually charged affairs. Indeed, Jennie's younger son, Jack, may have been fathered by a handsome colonel and viscount, and her purported lovers may have included the prince of Wales. After Randolph's death, she remarried twice to men 20 years her junior, and died at 67 after a bad fall caused by her high heels. Sebba's (Mother Teresa) admiring biography is absorbing, authoritative and makes good use of family letters. 16 pages of photos. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The mother of the greatest Englishman of them all, Winston Churchill, was actually an American, born Jennie Jerome into a wealthy New York family. In joining the second son of the Duke of Marlborough in matrimony, she was part of a swarm of American heiresses who, in the late nineteenth century, married into the European aristocracy. But Jennie Churchill was not just another anything. As brought to brilliant light in this responsible, respectful biography, she was her own person, an original who injected into the distinguished Churchill family a great deal of new energy. It would have been easy for her to live through her husband and son, but Jennie created a life for herself and achieved almost legendary status in British society, even becoming a good friend (and perhaps lover) of the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII. She ultimately had three husbands and even tried her hand at magazine editing, but no matter what she set out to do, she chose her own path. The person and her times will prove fascinating to a wide readership. Hooper, Brad

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Customer Reviews

If you haven't, this book won't be of much use to you, either.
voracious reader
Jennie Jerome Churchill has always been fascinating and this book goes into much more detail of her life than those I've read in the past.
S. D. Horais
I think the subject of this book is not to make Jennie look good.
C. Grace

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Peter Robins on March 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
American Jennie in the US, and Jennie Churchill in the UK - the mother of Winston Churchill - the title says it all. Anne Sebba has created a character who had to triumph in two countries. The method is simplistic, almost from a 1950s children's comic. The goodie is Jennie nee Jerome, from an American, and therefore liberated background. The baddie is her husband, Lord Randolph Churchill, from an English, aristocratic background. His supposedly becoming infected with syphilis early on in the marriage increases his badness. It gets worse when his career as a Conservative politician develops and he spends long hours in the House of Commons. Beautiful, well-dressed, extravagant, piano-playing Jennie is justified in taking a lover and triumphs as the heroine.

Jennie is promoted as the engineer of Winston's success as a politician and world leader during the Second World War. Yet she died in 1921, when he was still in disgrace over the failed attempt to capture Gallipoli in 1915, which plan he had masterminded. It would be another 20 years before Winston, by then in his mid-60s, would become British Wartime Prime Minister. One would have thought that his wife, Clementine nee Hozier (Clemmie), who he married in 1908, would have warranted more credit by Anne Sebba for her role in his success.

And what of Winston's younger brother John (Jack) Churchill? Ignored by Winston in his writings, as though he didn't exist he died in 1947 in relative obscurity. Anne Sebba has written Jack out of her biography in a single line. He was the illegitimate son of 7th Viscount (`Star') Falmouth. In other words he wasn't really a Churchill so neither Jennie nor Winston could be expected to take any responsibility for him.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
American Jennie by Anne Sebba is the story of the incredible life of Lady Randolph Churchill. American Jennie Jerome fell in love with Brit Randolph Churchill in a whirlwind courtship. After overcoming parental objections on both sides of the match, the couple wed and quickly produced son Winston. But the romance faded soon, and both engaged in affairs. They pulled together to get Randolph into the House of Commons, but for most of the rest of their lives, they lived apart. Sebba digs through newspaper accounts, family records, diaries, and letters to produce this well put together biography of an unusual woman. Jennie was well known for her beauty and her indiscretions in a time when women were still considered a husband's property. She produced a literary magazine, helped get both her husband and son seats in the House, traveled extensively, and cared for her husband at the end of his life. Randolph, who suffered from syphilis, was a difficult man, capricious even before the disease attacked his mind. Sebba tries to defend and protect Jennie where possible, but even in the best of lights, Jennie was an atrocious mother who ignored her children. In the end, the picture that emerges of Jennie is of a woman determined to live life on her own terms. She produced children, but that didn't make her a mother. She was married, but was a better wife to her lovers. She lived very much in the moment, always in debt and buying Worth gowns. Sebba does her best to make Jennie likeable, and to an extent, she succeeds. Jennie would be a wonderful addition to a dinner party, but not someone you could count on as a friend. A couple of complaints: there are not nearly enough photos of Jennie.Read more ›
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By C. Grace on December 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I say this is not a flattering portrait, it is only because, at the end of the day, I don't think Jennie Churchill was a particularly good person. She was a bad mother--even by the standards of the day; she was an unfaithful wife; she was a spendthrift; and she was, in my opinion, rather clueless as to the real world.

Any portrait of Jennie could not be flattering; she's famous for being infamous.

Now, beyond the topic of the "real" Jennie, my major criticism is that this book is not well written. It's just not an easy read. The thoughts seem scattered and not in depth, the deeper nuances of Jennie's character and motivations were not explored, and overall, the book does not flow.

I think the subject of this book is not to make Jennie look good. It's to shed insight on why she was the way she was. In that manner, I think by the somewhat disorganized storytelling, this book misses the mark.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By voracious reader on June 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I actually wasn't expecting much of this book, but as I spend a great deal of my time in bed I figured it was worth purchasing a used copy. This can hardly be called a confident bio, as the author first debunks Randolph's syphilis, then gives current medical opinion that he probably had it, then yes, then no...similarly with Jennie's purported lovers. I don't believe the author ever reconciled Jennie's undeniable mesmerizing charm with her blatant weaknesses...all too many authors and "reviewers" these days seem to have lost the ability to view a historical subject in the time and milieu in which the subject lived. The whole point of the Victorian era was the huge double standard of life in the highest upper class with that tolerated (or usually NOT tolerated) in the lower classes. (I'm perpetually amazed by reviews I see here in which the subject under discussion is judged based on "today's" standards...the joy of immersing oneself in history is sinking into another, alien time, trying to understand the thinking, the standards of living, the politics. It's ridiculous to read history for any other reason!) By all measures, Jennie was sui generis, and the ONE good point made by this author is that she could not possibly give the massive amount of attention and support to Randolph and her children at the same time. He would not have tolerated it, because he was jealous of his own children, and their ambitions as a couple to make their fortune via politics could never have been realized. Jennie also had to spend an enormous amount of energy, ingenuity, and time keeping Randolph's early and very evident psychological deterioration quiet for as long as she possibly could, which was in itself a terrifying tight-rope walk, for which she did not get the credit she deserved from him or his family.Read more ›
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