The Churchill Sisters: The Extraordinary Lives of Winston and Clementine’s Daughters by Rachel Tretheway

A few months ago I went through a Mitford phase. As is my wont, I read everything there was to read, fiction and non, about the Mitford sisters – scandalous British socialites with fascist tendencies who, it so happens, were related to the Churchills. Yes, those Churchills. As a casual Anglophile, I knew quite a bit about Winston (if you haven’t read Erik Larson’s excellent biography of Churchill’s role on the home front, please stop what you’re doing and grab it from your local library), Clementine, the tenacious and devoted wife, and even Randolph, the tortured and ne’er-do-well son. So when I saw Rachel Tretheway’s biography of the four Churchill sisters, I snatched it up.

Weaving the story of the four Churchill daughters with outline of their larger-than-life father, Tretheway tells the story of Diana, Sarah, Marigold, and Mary Churchill who were instrumental to their father’s success (even little Marigold, who tragically died as a toddler). They faced internal and external pressures to live up to the Churchill name, with varying degrees of success. The Churchill Sisters is thoroughly researched and written in a lyrical and engaging style.

My only quibble with this generally delightful book is that the treatment of the sisters is a little uneven. I suspect this is largely because the historical record is silent on certain points, but we lose sight of some of the sisters when another is in the spotlight. That said, it is an engaging look at the British aristocratic set in the early twentieth century and, ultimately, of the women behind the man.

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