THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN
Written by: Stephanie Barron
Read by: Saskia Maarleveld
11 Hours and 47 Minutes
Penguin Random House Audio | Random House Audio
Genre: Fiction – Historical – General
Release Date: January 29, 2019
I voluntarily reviewed an advance readers copy of this book. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.
The Paris Wife meets PBS’s Victoria in this enthralling novel of the life and loves of one of history’s most remarkable women: Winston Churchill’s scandalous American mother, Jennie Jerome.
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 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 glittering world over which she reigned, That Churchill Woman paints a portrait of the difficult—and sometimes impossible—balance among love, freedom, and obligation, while capturing the spirit of an unforgettable woman, one who altered the course of history. https://www.penguinrandomhouseaudio.com/book/567296/that-churchill-woman/
This is a great story and well narrated by Saskia Maarleveld whose voice is sometimes strident as Jenny is making something happen and she handles other characters and emotions as well. I don’t know much about Lady Churchill, so while it was known that she was with a Prince Kinsky, a man who could never marry her, I don’t know wow real that and other story lines are real.
That’s an issue with fictionalized biographies. Based in fact they become part of our knowledge base for the characters involved. So did Randolph really dislike their some, Winston? Was Randolph as incompetent as he is painted here? Were Jennie’s and Randolph’s lives as sad as Barron writes, or were they in agreement worked out before their marriage? I didn’t understand how they were so poor. Jennie’s father had money when they married, did they blow it all? It seems to be the eternal state of the aristocracy; even Winston Churchill was always on the brink of financial disaster.
Jennie was smart, beautiful (look at the pictures in the featured image), and in her time was a celebrity, and treated like one: praised, envied, reviled, gossiped about.
Yet, between bits character dialog, this feels dry as a novel; a historical recitation. It’s not necessarily boring or uninteresting — Jennie’s life was interesting and she was mother to a man who was vital for the UK and the world. Camping between biography and fiction, it’s okay but doesn’t achieve excellence in either.