Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict

Book Review: Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict (2020) 5 Stars ***** Acclaimed, Well-Researched Historical Fiction

We first meet Clementine Hozier in 1908 in London, England when she is about to marry Winston Churchill. “I think about the bishop’s description of my future—as a hidden force for good upon my important husband. Is that all anyone expects my life to be? I may be only twenty-three years old to Winston’s thirty-four, without the education, accomplishments, or nobility of my intended, but my life will not serve solely as the invisible prop for my husband.” Cat, as she is affectionately called by Pug, have an interdependent, loving relationship throughout their marriage. While Pug supplies the caché and the opportunities for social and political crusades, Pug’s beloved Clemmie is the wind beneath Winston’s wings. Clear-thinking, focused, adept at charming listeners and presenting arguments, Lady Clementine always remembers to take care of the little people who may be suffering, sees to it that their burdens are lifted but always with compassion, respects confidences, bites her tongue when expedient, and by doing so, raises the esteem in which her husband is held. You see, Winston Churchill was not always a star. His politics were generally at odds with the powers that were. He lacked charm, attractiveness and wealth, was high-strung, got knocked around as a political pariah, and was bereft of public relations strategies that came so easily to his wife.

Lady Clementine literally and figuratively saved her husband’s life numerous times. His path to glory was a hard one, and his Clemmie was there to help him forge on to fulfill the destiny so clearly foreseen by Lord Asquith. “I know it will seem small consolation at the moment, but I promise you this, Clementine. I will protect Winston as best I can so that—in the future—he can play the role to which he was born.”

Winston Churchill foresaw the horrors of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin years before they were unleashed in full force upon the world. Prime Minister Chamberlain of England and members of British Parliament along with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States, ignored these impending threats, and followed policies of appeasement as they were blind-sided by the realities of the world situation. Only after Germany, Italy and Russia had forcefully invaded a number of European and north African countries and Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, did Great Britain and the United States view the world with their eyes wide open.

As much as Lady Clementine understood and most often welcomed her role in her husband’s life and in history, this is not to say she often found it overwhelming. Her husband’s neediness, demands for constant attention, affection, and praise, refusal to act without her advice on even the smallest matters, all served to subjugate her into the role of alter ego. Her own needs were most often neglected. She suffered a number of miscarriages and the death of their two-year-old daughter. Her relationships with her four still living children were strained, as they were left with nannies and other caretakers while she traipsed around the world, most often at the behest of her husband. While she thrived on her independence and power to influence, Lady Clementine lost the balance between home and family and her function as emissary for her husband and country. Like most women today, a choice often has to be made to leave one or the other behind, or to moderately succeed, rather than excel, with both.

As one who served her country and her husband well, Lady Clementine expresses the dissonance of her life, “The sun sets in swaths of shimmering gold against the sharp line of the horizon where sky meets land, as it descends, I feel an unfamiliar tranquility descend upon me as well. All the strain and struggle that have comprised my life—my lonely and strange childhood, the wild swings of my unusual marriage, my struggle with motherhood, my compunction to constantly prove myself worthy, the tumult of two wars, even my pervasive sense of otherness—seem to fall away. In the vacuum of calm, I see with unexpected clarity that, without my unique hardships and failings, particularly with my children, I could not have become the Clementine who forged this path through politics and history, and without me, my husband could not have become the Winston who helped deliver peace to this broken world.”

Well-written with beautiful, evocative language, this book is an excellent choice for readers who love history, strong women characters, excellent examples for college courses in women’s studies, and realistic love stories that take us away from the mundane into the world of the movers and shakers of the world.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

Book Review: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie 4 Stars **** (1993, 2005, Prologue 2013) (Adult and mature Young Adult)

It’s impossible not to hear the underlying plaintive cries of this book that presents itself as a work of fiction when it captures the very essence of people who have lost their once proud cultural identity and are hardpressed to find something to replace it. This book is a collection of inter-connected short stories that won the PEN/Hemingway Award. The award winning movie Smoke Signals, released in 1998, is based on the short story “What It Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona” from this book.

Set in the late 20th century on an Indian reservation in Spokane, Washington, we meet a group of people beset by poverty, alcoholism, drug addiction, racism, and isolationism from the society outside their reservation. Further complicated by limited education, unstable and absent parenting and home life, a lack of positive role models, and a fear of the unknown outside world, the characters go in circles with the nothingness of their lives. Ambition and challenge are short-lived with characters reverting to their comfort zone of doing nothing and going nowhere. The reader has a sense of time standing still. Nothing changes—it only has the appearance of change.

Victor is one of the main characters of the stories. The significance of the title may revolve around him and his message. The Lone Ranger represents the white man and Tonto represents the Indians. Victor, who is a Spokane Indian, and his girlfriend, who is white, attempt to coexist and love each other but fight constantly in a doomed relationship. As with The Lone Ranger and Tonto, there is respect and appreciation for each other but the two worlds rarely overlap with their different cultures, expectations, and coping mechanisms. Neither side wants to be like the other. Add this to personal weaknesses, and in the words of Rudyard Kipling, “Oh, East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

The beginning chapters of this book contain some of the most beautiful, imagistic, evocative writing I’ve ever encountered with a command of language that is exceptional. As the reader approaches the end, the writing becomes inconsistent as if the author stopped trying or caring and just put anything down on paper to fill space. Is this a metaphor for the lives and human condition about which the author writes?

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at elainewrites@earthlink.net

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2020

 

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2019) 5 Stars *****

Delia Owens, a wildlife scientist in Africa, has astounded the world with her first novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Set in the Outer Banks marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s, we meet six year old Kya, who has been abandoned one by one as her mother and siblings escape a drunken, abusive, irresponsible, neglectful father and literally leave her to fend for herself, each deciding to heal their emotional turmoil and physical pain in some other place, leaving the baby of the family as someone else’s responsibility.

By the time she is ten years old, Kya’s father also just walks away without explanation, leaving Kya without money, resources or hope. An outcast living in isolation and shame, Kya draws on her inner strength to find ways to generate income so she can eat and buy gasoline for her little boat that is her lifeline to the rest of the world. The Marsh Girl, as she is derisively called, grows up to be a beautiful, self-educated woman, loved and abandoned by two very different men, leaving emotional scars never to be healed, and embroiling her in scandal that haunts her for a lifetime. The ending of this book might surprise you, but then again, maybe not. Any reader understanding Kya’s innate intelligence and inner turmoil would never expect anything different from her.

Being an industrious, resourceful child, Kya generates income by selling mussels and smoked fish which enables her to subsist mostly on grits and whatever root vegetables she can grow in her marshy garden. Tate, a kind neighbor boy, teaches Kya to read, brings her books, and quietly looks after her from afar as they grow into adulthood. Kya is also befriended by Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel, an African-American couple in the rural south, who unobtrusively help and protect the proud and independent Kya. Kya’s accomplishments surpass all expectations. Living in the modern world is not an option. Kya’s beloved marsh offers a place of comfort and safety and a pathway to critical acclaim.

This book is filled with beautiful sensory images, metaphors, and similes.
Some examples:
*A floating mat of duckweed colored the water as green as the leafy ceiling, creating an emerald tunnel.
*Suddenly the ocean’s face—gray, stern, pulsing—frowned at her.
*Egrets took flight, a line of white flags against the mounting gray clouds.
*…Kya eased alone through the sea toward the village, the sky in a frumpy sweater of gray clouds.
*As evening fell, she took her blanket and slept in the marsh, close to a gully full of moon and mussels, and had two tow bags filled by dawn. Gas money.

Where do the crawdads sing? “Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.” The author emphasizes the differences between marsh and swamp. Its symbolism extends to Kia’s life journey. Keep this in mind while you enjoy the book.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Review: Nights Arose by Andrea Roche

Book Review: Nights Arose by Andrea Roche

 

I really enjoyed this fantasy romance swashbuckling female heroine tale and her exploits in the 17th Century island of Jamaica. Set against a seemingly accurate historical backdrop, this story is told in beautiful imagistic language with strong appeals to the senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste, and muscle memory—for example, “She gazed out on the white-capped sea. At the shoreline waves crashed into the golden beach. They tumbled into themselves with an unforgiving wrath, and withdrew, deserting white foam on the soggy sand.” Astral planes, magic, sorcerers, dragons, the constant fight between good and evil add up to a riveting story of how one woman with special powers must fight to keep herself and her family safe from those who would use her gifts for their own evil ends. I must admit, I was often confused between the real-time events, the past and the future, but the story kept my interest so I read it in one sitting. That’s saying a lot!

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2018

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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