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Winston and Clementine: The Personal Letters of the Churchills Hardcover – March 30, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

"I seize this fleeting hour of leisure to write and tell you how much I liked our long talk on Sunday," Winston Churchill wrote to Clementine Hozier in April 1908, shortly after their third meeting, "and what a comfort and pleasure it was to me to meet a girl with so much intellectual quality and such strong reserves of noble sentiment." They were married by September; he was 29, she 19. They would remain married--though, due to political circumstances, they were not always together--until his death in 1965. During that time, their daughter Mary Soames remarks, some 1,700 items of personal correspondence passed between the two. Winston and Clementine is far from a complete collection, but it does offer a comprehensive overview of their epistolary relationship and the deep love and mutual respect upon which their marriage was based. It may be somewhat disconcerting to see the man who stirred a nation to war with "blood, toil, tears, and sweat" and other memorable phrases sending "kisses to my sweet and beloved Clemmie cat," yet it also makes the imposing statesman seem more human.

Sometimes Clementine would send written messages to Winston even when they were together; it was an opportunity to gather her thoughts, or avoid taking up her husband's time with arguments when he was busy managing the war. In June 1940, for example, she told him that "there is a danger of your being generally disliked by your colleagues and subordinates because of your rough sarcastic and overbearing manner.... I cannot bear that those who serve the Country and yourself should not love you as well as admire and respect you." A few of the letters are accompanied by little cartoon animals that they would draw for each other: she always drew the posterior view of a sitting cat, while he would sketch pug dogs, and later pigs. Even toward the end, when they both had to deal with increased infirmity and tragedies among their children, they still found time to send "little love messages" to each other. Looking back at their marriage, with Soames's edifying commentary sprinkled throughout (as well as a quite well-done biographical dictionary), is an experience both revealing and touching.

From Library Journal

Soames, daughter of Winston and Clementine Churchill and author of other books on the family, has edited a collection of her parents' letters, some of them published here for the first time. From their marriage in 1908 until his death in 1965, the couple wrote letters, telegrams, and notes to each other on a regular basis. Interwoven with news of war and politics are the concerns about their children and family, endearments, chastisements, quarrels, and reconciliations that make up all marriages. Soames indicates which collection the letters are from, provides explanatory text and footnotes, and includes a biographical appendix with information on frequently mentioned people. She has also included some of the doodles and caricatures her parents often put in their letters. While not an essential purchase, this will be a welcome addition to public and academic libraries with strong Churchill collections.?Julie Still, Rutgers Univ., Camden, NJ
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 30, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395963192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395963197
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.4 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,494 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Larry P. Arnn ( on April 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Winston and Clementine: Happily Ever After
This is the story of a political marriage. In some ways it will be familiar to the contemporary reader, though it began and ended a long time ago.
Both husband and wife in this marriage were interested in politics. The husband was elected again and again over decades to high office. For decades his wife fought at his side, entertained at his table, offered her judgment to him and his colleagues and his enemies. She took his place in his absence, and sometimes in his presence. She became an international figure. She had power, and she used it. Always she had a mind of her own.
Sometimes this couple would quarrel. Once a serving dish was thrown. There was a period, not too long, when one of the partners was out of sympathy with the other, or anyway in sympathy with another.
They knew trouble. They lost a daughter and many friends to death, and some friends to betrayal. They fought political wars at home in which their own party tried to deprive them of office. They fought shooting wars abroad-including the worst ever. More than once, they seemed down and out. Their livelihood as much as their career was threatened. After decades of struggle they reached the summit of power and they knew the adoration of a nation and a world. By then they had grown old together.
Readers of this story will find that wives did not enter politics yesterday, and private lives were influential in politics before last week. But in other respects this story is unlike anything we have known in this time. Here are two people who won every honor that human affairs can offer, and they won them together. Meanwhile they operated upon those natural and traditional lines that involve that deepest of partnerships.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book was introduced to me through a friend and, quite frankly, my first reaction was to cringe at the idea of reading such a bulky historical book. But from the first letter I was transfixed by the dialogue between husband and wife on both political and personal matters. This book brings with it a new aspect of Churchill's personality - he was not only a great statesman but he was a passionate man who loved his wife dearly which is seen clearly in the letters that were intended for her eyes only.
I often wonder how he would have felt to know millions would one day read the letters he wrote to his "clemmie-cat". In any case, its a great read :)
Cheers, Meagan.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The real service that this book performs is to remind the reader that great historical figures are not one dimensional. Chuchill was a renaissance man, warrior, journalist, historian, memoirist, politician and statesman. He was arguably the single greatest personage of this century and his name has become a symbol for the indominitable spirit of a free people. The collection of letters sent to and received from his wife are entertaining as well as educational. They provide a feel for the time in which they were written and place many of Churchill's famous accomplishments (and failures) in proper context. Amazingly, unlike today when the more we know of a public figure, the smaller they seem, in Churchill's case one comes away convinced that this was a great man in the truest sense, and that much of his greatness is due in no small part to his marriage to Clementine.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Serge J. Van Steenkiste on February 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
When I considered buying that book, I first felt quite uncomfortable about the idea of reading an exchange of private letters between Winston and Clementine. Fortunately, I overcame my discomfort fast. I quickly enjoyed reading that thick epistolary volume about their political and personal matters. The personal letters of the Churchills revealed to me how influential Clementine was on Winston across the board. Their deep love and trust was the secret of their successful marriage, even if Winston was not always an easy husband and politician to deal with. Corresponding by written messages (today perhaps by email) with each other on a regular basis, even when they were together, proved to be an excellent way to help them keep their enduring flame for each other intact. Today, too many marital and extra-marital relationships get dissolved prematurely because of a lack of enough communication between both players. Life is after all a comedy in which men and women play their part and need to know or rediscover how to communicate their joys and pains to one another in order to increase the odds that they will be successful in their relationship.
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