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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars


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on 1 August 2012
The cover on this book reads, 'An unputdownable family saga which it would be hard to invent if it wasn't true'. Vraiment, I had to keep on reading it, to the exclusion of other books, I usually read 2 or 3 coevally.
Engagingly written (by an authoress belonging to my generation and who grew up about 12 miles distance from me), I especially appreciated the many footnote explanations which are very helpful, and convey extra meaning and insight to the narrative. Mary Lovell obviously has a great regard for Sir Winston in particular, it shines through her text, but this is not a hagiography, she paints him warts and all.
I cannot recommend this book too highly. I will purchase her biography of the Mitford Girls (one of whom I once met). If it proves half as interesting as this present book, it will be a corker.
One of the best modern biographies I have read for some time. Anyone with an interest in late Victorian, Edwardian, or British Empire history should own a copy of this book.
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on 9 April 2013
This is a very enjoyable book as it canters through Great British characters.

Although it is described as 'A Family at the Heart of History', it is more focussed on Winston Churchill than the Dukes of Marlborough. Don't expect a depth of inforamtion on the Marlborough family, it leaps over and scans past generations of early Dukes after the introductory chapter.

Nevertheless it is an interesting and illuminating read as an introduction to the family and leaves you wanting to find out more.
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on 17 September 2015
Very informative, interesting book. Didn't want to put it down.
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on 31 May 2017
Interesting to read couldn't put down this book.
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on 27 August 2017
very good indeed
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on 19 June 2015
Very good condition
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Having enjoyed Mary S Lovell's previous books, I was looking forward to this biography of The Churchills, and it has exceeded my expectations. In the preface, the author says she may be taken to task for adopting a 'gossipy' approach to her subjects. She also says that she began this project with the idea of writing about the entire Churchill family, but the scope was too much for one volume. Seeing that there are many biographies about individual people in this book, not least about its most famous member, Winston Churchill, that is a justifiable worry. However, Lovell has managed to produce a book that is sublime -interesting, informative and, yes, gossipy, in the most enjoyable way.

The beginning of the book looks at the early family history of the Spencers and Churchills and the building of Blenheim. However, the story really starts in earnest with the marriage of Winston's parents, Jennie Jerome and Randolph Churchill. Also, of great importance in the book is Randolph's eldest brother, whose son (known as Sunny, but who did not quite manage to live up to his nickname) inherited Blenheim. Desperate for money, Sunny entered into a loveless marriage with Consuelo Vanderbilt, an American heiress who he said was a 'link in the chain' to support his family home. She was only in her teens when forced to marry him, and it was noticed that she had been sobbing before the wedding. Things did not really improve afterwards either, but Winston was close to his first cousin and also very fond of Consuelo.

Winston Churchill towers over this book, and it is difficult to imagine such a young man having such self belief and strength. Despite a real lack of parental input and love in his early life, he was always loyal to his parents and completely supportive of them. Even though his father showed only disapproval and disappointment, Winston revered him. He adored his mother, even when she did things which could have harmed his career, such as marrying a much younger man and shocking society with her love affairs. Although the book is not meant to be an in-depth look at Winston's political career, it obviously does follow his life, from his early army career, his work as a war correspondent and his career in politics, which was where his heart lay. When a prisoner in the Boer War, Winston wrote, "I am 25 today - it is terrible to think how little time remains", an amazing remark for such a young man to make, and he felt he had a charmed life, saying that he had faith in his 'star', his destiny, and that he felt he was intended to do something in the world'. Always ambitious, he had great belief in himself and thought that he would become Prime Minister. Obviously, part of him wished to live up to his father's political career, which crashed in a spectacular way. Randolph's peers were helpful to Winston in achieving introductions and he was never shy to use anything to help him succeed.

The book follows Winston's life, and that of all his family, through both world wars. The book ends in the last chapter, covering the years 1963-78. Although both world wars are covered, the book never veers from being a family history and follows what happens from the point of view of the people involved. It is not an in depth analysis of either wars, nor does it pretend to be. There are other books which examine Winston Churchill as a statesman and a leader. This book is a look at a family - not an ordinary family, but one involved at the highest levels in politics and society. Their ambitions, successes, failures, happiness and sadness are covered with warmth and sympathy by the author. She brings the time and the people to life and evokes a real sense of understanding for the people she writes about. This book is another stunning achievement by her and she is an author on my 'must pre-order' list. I recommend this highly and am sure that you will enjoy this wonderful biography.

As a last comment, I read the kindle edition of this book and the illustrations were included.
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on 16 March 2015
Your enjoyment of this book will depend on how you view history. If you believe the official version of major events (like WW2), and hold to the opinion that Winston Churchill was one of the greatest Englishmen in history, then you will enjoy this. It's well-researched (within certain limits), maintains a easy-going, interesting narrative throughout the 580 pages and has excellent production.
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on 3 June 2011
I enjoyed this new book about the Churchill family. I have read many books about the first Duke of Marlborough and his wife Sarah and also specifically about Sir Winston Churchill, so not much in this book was new; however it made interesting reading and you really needed the family trees to keep track of the marriages, divorces, wives and children of the various family members. The only downside of this book was the fact that a couple of chapters were devoted to the first Duke and then it skipped to the 9th and subsequent dukes leaving the few in the middle unaccounted for. A VERY large part of the book was devoted to Winston Churchill, his wartime activities, his father and his children - as these were not the only Churchills in the family I would have liked more information about the others. Even so, a very good easy read and very happy to have bought and read it.
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Mary Lovell takes a reasoned approach to the Churchill family in her new biography, "The Churchills: In Love and War". She begins by writing that she has taken a personal rather than a strictly accomplishment look at the family. This is clear in her book, but she does put everything in context.

While Lovell begins her book with John and Sarah Churchill, builders of Blenheim Palace, most of this very large and readable book is about the generation of Winston's father, Randolf, and his older brother. Their marriages and wives are covered, in the context of Britain (and America) of the time. Both Randolf and his cousin, Charles, 9th Duke of Marlborough, married American "Dollar Princesses", those wealthy American women whose marriages to cash-poor and title-heavy Brits became common in the second half of the 19th century. It was a good deal on both sides economically, but the marriages made were often unhappy and of short duration. In fact, many of the marriages in the Churchill family were not successes; the one good, long-lasting one was between Winston and Clementine Hozier. They were wed 60 years or so and had five children, four of whom lived to adulthood. But of those four, three had relatively unhappy lives and marriages and died relatively young.

But Lovell writes about more than the marriages of the Churchills in the last two hundred years. She gives a good deal of space to non-Winston members of the Churchill family and writes about their position in history and society. She has good footnotes about people or events she mentions that might not be universally known by her readers.

The only topic I think she gives short shrift to is Winston's "Black Dog" of depression. Winston was not the only Churchill to be visited by the "dog" on a regular basis, and I'd love to see someone write on that subject alone: how depression affected the family. I also expected Lovell to write a little more about Pam Digby, Winston's son Randolf's first wife. She was of the famous Digby family and a descendent of Lady Jane Digby, who Lovell wrote a biography of called "A Scandalous Life: The Story of Jane Digby". If, as a reader of this review, you're looking for a great biography of one of the most interesting people in history, look for Lovell's biography of Jane Digby.

If you're looking for a good, interesting, long read, pick up "The Churchills" by Lovell. If you don't like it, you can always use it to balance on top of your head for better posture! It's a large book.
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