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: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

Book Review: Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center (2019) 3 Stars *** (Adult, YA)

Feisty, accomplished, self-motivated twenty-six year old Austin, Texas firefighter Cassie Hanwell starts out with a bang when she clocks sleazebag Heath Thompson, City Council Member, in the jaw, leaving him with a concussion, when he surreptitiously grabs Cassie’s arse while presenting her a valor award at a public awards dinner. Needless to say, Cassie’s once meteoric rise on the road to lieutenant is derailed.

Fate has a way of sometimes opening doors before the last one has slammed itself closed. At her long-hated, estranged mother’s timely, insistent request, Cassie opts to move out of state to picturesque Rockport, Massachusetts to help her  mother who is losing her eyesight, realizing a one year’s absence will help tempers cool and allow her to get back on her horse in the future, so to speak. Fire Captain Harris, after admonishing tomboy, loner Cassie not to giggle, cry or wear lipstick (a totally unnecesassry move), uses her connections to secure Cassie a position in a fire house near her new home. First day at her new job, guess who gets gobsmacked by the hot, sweet, chivalrous rookie Owen? Let’s not leave out the hazing endured by both newbies by this apparently supportive, congenial, fun-loving group. Cassie has multiple opportunities to flex her muscles and display her superior intelligence. She must constantly prove she’s one of the guys, and she does, and wins, of course.

I’m not a fan of romance novels, although I adore love stories like Dr. Zhivago, Out of Africa or even Ghost. This book doesn’t do it for me. Shallow, immature situations, dialogue, actions, and reactions. Sugary sweet forgiveness theme after serious betrayal. This is exemplified by the “bad firefighter” being invited to the parties after he does a number on Cassie and Owen. Also, while Cassie’s mother suddenly abandoned her and her father on Cassie’s sixteenth birthday, when she runs away with the man of her dreams, penitent mom now explains that she was never guilty of betrayal, only abandonment, and both Cassie and her dad are comforted by this news. (???) (Huh?) The Epilogue abruptly closes the most important plot points of the book, which deserve full development, rather than a cursory mention. Was the author meeting a deadline commitment?

This book is so lightweight that it is also appropriate for young adult readers. Lessons learned: Women can be as tough as men. Firefighters, even those whose weaknesses and sorrows may temporarily lead them astray, live by a special code of honor, and always forgive those who have trespassed against them.

“I forgive you for all of it. I forgive you.”
“Why the hell would you do that?”
“Because that’s who I want to be,” I said.

What are the things that are saved in this fire? Nothing that can be put in a box!

 

 

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 2020

Book Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

Book Review: Tidelands by Philippa Gregory (2019) 5 Stars*****

True to her history of writing about strong, independent, and therefore powerful women, the author does not disappoint with her portrayal of Alinor. The story begins in the churchyard in the tidelands on Sealsea Island, England in 1648 on Midsummer Eve with Alinor hoping to encounter the ghost of her abusive husband to  determine if his abandonment of her and their two children led to his death or if he just left them high and dry by choice.

Instead, she encounters a handsome, charming, elegant man who admits he is a Catholic priest posing as an Anglican minister so he may act as a spy and assist in returning the imprisoned King Charles to the throne of England, endangering his life and the lives of all those involved in aiding and abetting this papist a royalist. The magnetic attraction between Alinor and Mr. James Summer is unmistakeable. “I didn’t know there could be a woman like you, in a place like this.” A strong bond forms with Alinor becoming a confidante, privy to his plans, protecting him in every possible way, despite the fact that she is not sympathetic to James’ political affiliations. This blind loyalty brings dire consequences.

Alinor’s family benefits from this association by being paid outright and by the hiring of her son as a companion to the son of a wealthy man, also sympathetic to the king’s cause. Alinor strives to improve the plight of her family. She acts as a licensed midwife/herbalist, catches fish to salt and sell, traps lobsters, dries herbs and produces healing oils, works at the mill, helps transport passengers on her brother’s ferry, and nurses the sick. Although excluded from power, wealth and education, Alinor is ambitious for herself and her children and encourages excellence through the rewards of hard work. Failure is not an option.

Rob, the handsome, brilliant, responsible son, is a model of obedience and cooperation. Alys, the cunningly beautiful, fiery, bender of rules, lives by the code of her own morality, never anticipating the consequences of her actions. Many people mistakenly believe Alinor, with her ethereal beauty, accomplishments, high-achieving children and knowledge of herbs, to be a faerie temptress, a charmer or even a witch. Despite her great kindnesses and generous spirit, Alinor  becomes the target of malicious gossip and violence.

Mr. James Summer? It’s hard not to spoil the story by my assessment of this immature, self-serving, fickle, poor example of a man. Dedicated to ideals rather than people, this slinking-in-dark-hiding-places character reveals his soul to be as dark as the places in which he hides. Ugh!

The title of this book, I believe, is symbolic. Just as the tide ebbs and flows, covering up truths with high tide, trapping travelers in muck and mire in low tide, so go the lives and actions of the residents of this strung tighter than a violin, fearful island.

With a stunning surprise ending, Alys devises an extraordinary plan to quickly bring the story to resolution. I assume the author will write a sequel to this saga, so the readers might rest easy, knowing their beloved Alinor is safe and happy at last. I can only hope.

 

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

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

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