My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stephanie Barron’s novel, That Churchill Woman, is the story of Jennie Jerome, the American woman best known as Winston Churchill’s mother. Jennie is a strong, independent woman who in many respects is ahead of her time but must make sacrifices to avoid scandals that would destroy her husband’s career, damage her children’s future, and, yes, lose her place in Victorian society.
The story often goes back in time to explore Jennie’s formative years and the events that lead up to her becoming Lady Randolph Churchill. This helps the reader to understand a character whose decisions may not always be the most admirable but the novel’s strength lies not in character, who often seem two-dimensional, but in its power to transport the reader to the glittering world of society’s upper echelons during the Gilded Age. While reading I felt that I was in the parlors and ballrooms of British estates or on the rocky shores of the east coast of the U.S. And I could not only picture the sumptuous fashions but feel the materials and hear the rustle of the fabric.
If you enjoy historical fiction, particularly about the British Royal family or the Victorian era, I recommend reading Karen Harper’s The Royal Nanny, the story of LaLa who was charged with the care of George V’s (Victoria’s grandson) youngest children.