Winston Churchill played many roles during his extraordinary life. In addition to being one of the 20th century’s great leaders, he was also the father of five children. The youngest and only surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill, Mary Soames, now almost 90, takes us into their rarefied world and gives us an intimate view of her parents and their times in A Daughter’s Tale.
Soames describes in rich detail the “lovely life” of her childhood at Chartwell, the family home, where she kept many animals—cats, dogs, lambs and goats, among others. A highlight of those years were the elaborately staged Chartwell Christmases, which usually ran over into the new year. Prominent public figures were frequent visitors; one of Soames’ favorites was T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).
Soames bonded with her father over their love of animals and the outdoors. But he was not deeply involved in what she calls the “small print” of her life. Her parents were often absent from home or otherwise engaged. Soames notes that there was a “tug-of-love”; Winston loved his children but always wanted Clementine to be with him. Still, the author demonstrates the love between parents and daughter in charming letters between them.
Instead of being presented at Court in 1941, as her mother had predicted, Soames enlisted in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. She was involved in serious defense work and her father was proud of her for it.
This absorbing memoir gives us glimpses of Mary’s opinions about such public figures as Franklin Roosevelt and Charles de Gaulle. But she also tells us a lot about people who were important to her but are lost to history. This wonderful memoir would be of interest not only to those who want to learn more about the Churchills, but to anyone who wants to read an engaging memoir about an impressive young woman.