In this charming and intimate memoir, Winston Churchill’s youngest daughter shares stories from her remarkable life—and tells of the unbreakable bond she forged with her father through some of the most tumultuous years in British history.
Now approaching her ninetieth birthday, Mary Soames is the only surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Through a combination of personal reminiscences and never-before-published diary entries, she describes what it was like growing up as the scion of one of the lions of twentieth-century statecraft. Warm memories of a childhood spent roaming the grounds of the family’s country estate, tending to a small menagerie of pets, evoke the idyllic mood of England between the wars. As she matures into one of her father’s most trusted companions, we are given rare glimpses inside the glittering social milieu through which the Churchills moved—as well as the rough-and-tumble world of British politics. With fly-on-the-wall immediacy, Mary describes the momentous debate in Parliament where Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was driven from office, paving the way for Winston Churchill’s ascension and the grueling crucible of World War II.
During the war Mary served as a gunner in the women’s auxiliary, helping to shoot down the German V-1 rockets then bedeviling London. Styling herself as Private M. Churchill to avoid publicity, she led a unique double life that comes vividly alive again in the retelling. Splitting her time between luncheons at Chequers—where she spent time with the likes of Lord Mountbatten—and the turret of an anti-aircraft battery, she was never far from the center of the action. Hitler even reportedly hatched a plan, never consummated, to hire spies to seduce her in order to gain access to secret British war plans. She attended the Potsdam Conference as her father’s aide-de-camp, arranging a memorable dinner with Harry Truman and Josef Stalin (whom she acidly remembers as “small, dapper, and rather twinkly”). And when British voters overwhelmingly turned on Churchill in the 1945 election, it is left to Mary to recount the pain and devastation her father could never publicly express.
The mutual love and affection between Mary Soames and her parents pours forth from every page of this elegantly written memoir. A Daughter’s Tale is both a moving personal history and a source of untold insight into one of the enduring icons of British national life.
About Mary Soames
Mary Soames is the youngest and only surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill. She was born in 1922 and brought up at Chartwell in Kent. In 1941, at age eighteen, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service and served in mixed anti-aircraft batteries in England and Europe. She accompanied her father as his aide-de-camp on several of his wartime overseas journeys. In 1945 she was awarded the MBE (military). In 1947 she married Captain Christopher Soames, Coldstream Guards, later Lord Soames, PC, GCMG, CH. She is also the author of her mother’s biography, Clementine Churchill, and edited Speaking for Themselves,the personal letters between her parents.
Countless books have been written about Churchill, and even this memoir is only the latest book that Soames (Clementine Churchill, 2002, etc.) has written or edited about her family’s history. As the baby of the family, born in 1922, she is Churchill’s only surviving child, and she delivers a rare eyewitness account of her father. However, readers looking for an emotionally engaging look at the Churchill family’s private lives will be disappointed. Soames clearly worshipped her father, but she appears not to have known him on a deep emotional level. Indeed, other than a few airy letters, the author shares relatively little direct communication between them. She draws heavily on journals and letters she wrote during her young womanhood, in which she apparently had a habit of recounting the menus of lunches and dinners in great detail. Though famous figures make appearances, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, T.E. Lawrence and Charlie Chaplin, Soames rarely judges anyone as less than utterly charming, nor does she provide particularly useful information about historical events. The memoir becomes marginally more interesting in later chapters, as when Soames recounts her stint serving with the Auxiliary Territorial Service during the war, and especially when she briefly tells of her visit to the liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. However, Soames rarely delves much below the surface of things, keeping events (and emotions) strictly at arm’s length—which often makes for dreary reading. – Kirkus Reviews
“A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child” by Mary Soames
The Washington Post Book Review – July 21, 2012 (Excerpt)
Mary Soames, who will celebrate her 90th birthday this September, is the youngest of Winston and Clementine Churchill’s five children and now the only surviving one. For years she has been a faithful and effective keeper of the family flame, most notably as the author of “Clementine Churchill” (1979), an exceptional biography that documents her mother’s central role in her father’s historic career, and of several other books about the family, including a collection of her parents’ private letters to each other. Now she turns to her own story, as it unfolded in her childhood and young adulthood before her marriage in 1947 to Christopher Soames, himself a public servant of lengthy and distinguished service.
“A Daughter’s Tale” relies heavily on her diary and letters. Many of these are charming and informative, but others remind us that she was very much a child of privilege and that she moved somewhat giddily in circles far removed from the much harder realities of daily life as it was lived by ordinary Britons. One does tire of breathless accounts of fancy parties, debutante balls, country weekends and exclusive dinners, though on the other hand these passages provide an inside picture of a world that few of us will be able to enter and, no doubt, a world that is much different now than it was in those years before and during World War II.
Even at this late hour in her life, Soames sees herself as “the child of consolation” for her parents, born as she was less than two years after the death of her sister Marigold, of a sudden illness at age 2. There was “a wide age gap” between herself and her elder siblings — “Sarah was nearly eight years old, Randolph eleven, and Diana thirteen when I appeared on the family scene” — and though she loved them all, Sarah especially, she was “brought up virtually as an only child.” She adored her “Nana,” Maryott Whyte, a cousin who “was a trained Norland nurse — then, as now, the ne plus ultra in terms of family care,” and she had other compensations as well. [Read the full article...]
DOODLEBUGS & SPITFIRES Memories and Short Stories by Peter Carroll
“Doodlebugs & Spitfires” is a delightful collection of memories and short stories written by Peter Carroll, the author of “Queen of Misfortune,” in his trademark poetic and profoundly thoughtful style.
Most of his stories, previously published in limited form in local English newspapers and magazines, like “Brave New World”, “The Forties Street Tradesmen”, “Doodlebugs”, or “The Christmas of 43” evolve around his childhood in the Northern part of London during and after World War II. He describes the horrors that came with the V1 flying bombs, nicknamed the “Doodlebugs.” Heroic British pilots in their “Spitfire” airplanes would attempt to divert the flying bombs from the populated areas, sometimes successful, and sometimes not.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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