Adventures with new & worthy reads
titles curated to inspire your reading life
A BLOG BY DIANA HAMBLETON & FRIENDS
VOL. IV. by Diana HamBleton & Susan Porter
Vetted Summer Reading…
A Mix of Genres: A trail for all types of readers - By Diana Hambleton
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Ballantine Books, 2019)
Best described as “reality lit”, an unfiltered, behind-the-scenes take on a 70’s rock band on its whirlwind rise through the charts. Presented as oral history, the story spotlights a love triangle between the group’s leader, his wife, and a beautiful singer/songwriter/reckless user of pills and men. In spite of its X-rated potential, the aura is bittersweet vintage—but with enough “will-they” or “won’t-they” drama to entice Reese Witherspoon and Amazon to turn it into a TV series—time and place TBD.
The Lost Man by Jane Harper (Flat Iron, 2019)
In the relentless heat of the Australian outback—so dusty and isolated that you can drive twelve hours without passing a car—a body is found curled into the shadow of a solitary gravestone. Was it suicide? An accident? Or worse? The dead man’s family, the Brights, slowly reveal their innermost secrets—financial difficulties, love affairs, abuse—in an effort to understand the truth. Highly credible, the author drops clues as she goes, although, reader beware! She never draws you to the correct conclusion...until the final pages.
Sing to It by Amy Hempel (Scribner, 2019)
In Amy Hempel’s short stories, survivors struggle to let go and move on after loss. Friends have died, marriages have been destroyed, and institutions (maternity homes, animal shelters) have betrayed their trust. Along with her wit and minimalist style, what carries Hempel’s writing to genius is the way she couches her message inside the mundane—a fastened seat belt, an adjusted leash. When these details hit, unexpected and dead on, they highlight the grit of the emotionally scarred and their poignant longing to heal.
The Catalogue of Ship-Wrecked Books: Young Columbus and the Quest for A Universal Library by Edward Wilson-Lee (William Collins, 2018)
Who knew that Christopher Columbus had an illegitimate son? Hernando Colon (1488-1539) carried on his father’s exploration of the world by building a universal library: 15,370 books, sheets of music, playing cards, popular pamphlets, maps, paintings, and plants (Europe’s first botanical garden). Wrestling with how to effectively catalogue knowledge so that the Renaissance could re-think it fresh, Hernando’s pioneer efforts remained stalled until Google and digitization moved them forward. A moving father-son story, plus unexpected insights into the world that shaped them.
Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe (Doubleday, 2019)
A mesmerizing history of the Troubles in 20th century Northern Ireland that reads like crime fiction. The widowed mother, abducted by masked militants, while her children look on. The terrorist sisters who go to the brink during hunger strikes in prison. The IRA mastermind who sells out his comrades to advance his political career. By tracking individuals from different sides of the conflict--the Protestant majority, the Catholic minority and the British army--the author/staff writer for the New Yorker blows open a disfigured society, where everyone has a share in the blame as well as a stake in the peace.
Horizon by Barry Lopez (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019)
Beginning with his boyhood “longing to go,” a National Book Award winner reflects on his travels as a historian, an anthropologist, a scientist, and a poet. Lured past “the beyond” into the remote—Cape Crozier in Antarctica, the Great Rift Valley in Africa—Lopez’s memoir includes landscapes of wonder; biographies of famous explorers (Cook, Darwin and Shackleton); conversations with professional fieldworkers (some well-known, like the Leakeys); and thoughts about times of transition, tribal leaders, and the future of “us.” Transformational, the book invites jotting down, not just destinations for further reading, but keepsakes of wisdom from a profoundly lived life.
First: Sandra Day O’Connor: An Intimate Portrait of the First Woman Supreme Court Justice by Evan Thomas (Random House, 2019)
From Arizona cowgirl to the first woman justice on the United States Supreme Court—the surprise isn’t that Sandra Day O’Connor was a superstar, but that she was so remarkably unassuming, intellectually unpretentious, self-reliant, and humbly self-effacing. Dubbed as a “consequentialist” in her judicial opinions (she believed that how the law affected the lives of real people measured its success), she demanded the same accountability from herself in relationships. Written by a former Washington Bureau Chief for Newsweek, the biography is inspiration for those wanting to “do it all”—and/or make a significant difference.
BREAKING NEWS - by susan Porter
Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors and the Drug Company That Addicted America by Beth Macy (Little Brown & Co., 2018)
No parent could ever imagine their child becoming addicted to heroin and neither could they conceive that pharmaceutical companies or doctors played a role in creating or perpetuating that addiction. In the process of researching the heroin epidemic for the Roanoke Times, Beth Macy, an investigative journalist and author of Truevine and Factory Man, was surprised to discover that the epidemic was not limited to the communities gutted by unemployment, but had in fact spread to crush the solidly middle class as well. In her odyssey of reporting on these unlikely addicts and their tormented families, Macy also shines a light on a profit-obsessed pharmaceutical industry and doctors turned pushers and their roles in creating and perpetuating the largest drug crisis in our nation’s history.
Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen (HarperCollins, 2019)
After having written the seminal book about America’s first school shooting, Columbine, and suffering from PTSD as a result, investigative journalist Dave Cullen knew immediately that Parkland would be different. Emerging from over three hours in lockdown (most mass shootings are 15 minutes), this group of kids—both brave and technologically astute—began to funnel their anger and trauma into activism while amazingly balancing the normal rights of passage such as the SAT and Senior Prom. During marathon news interviews less than twenty-four hours after the tragedy, David Hogg, one of the group’s leaders, rejects the now rote “thoughts and prayers” sentiment and instead advocates for change: “We need to realize there is something seriously wrong here and policy makers need to look in the mirror and take some action. We’re children. You guys are the adults.”
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019)
The parents in this novel met while recording a soundscape of New York City for NYU and it is their shared profession and their own individual projects that propel this family of four on a cross country trip. As they traverse the states; New York through Virginia; Tennessee across Oklahoma; Texas, and finally on to Arizona; the scenes of American decay seen flying by the windows begin to mirror the growing tension inside the car. As the mother becomes increasingly preoccupied by reports of an escalating immigration crisis at the border, she wonders “how would our own children do if left to their own devices in the desert?” It is only after an extraordinary turn of events that the nature of being a child and a parent is truly revealed.
Zucked: Waking Up to the Facebook Catastrophe by Roger McNamee (PenguinPress, 2019)
Roger McNamee, a Silicon insider and an early mentor to Mark Zuckerberg, seems like the most unlikely whistleblower to have sounded the alarm about technology and its inherent evils, but from his lofty and knowledgeable perch, he is a credible one. After having noticed irregularities on Facebook during the runup to the 2016 election, he notified Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryll Sandberg only to receive a polite rebuff and “we got this.” Zucked is the amazing tale of how McNamee—along with other recruited converts—has begun a campaign to educate the government and citizens. Technology can not only have a negative impact on developing brains, but can also be manipulated to corrupt elections, and even enable mass shootings.
Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and The End of the American Century by George Packer (Alfred A. Knopf, 2019)
In the final hours of Richard Holbrooke’s life, as he was being rushed into surgery due to what turned out to be a fatal aortic rip, the surgeon urged him to relax, a plea to which Holbrooke responded “I can’t relax. I’m in charge of Afghanistan and Pakistan.” At a time when the role of diplomacy in our international relations has been seriously diminished, Our Man is not only the story of Richard Holbrooke’s life but the story of an era when America was, much like Holbrooke himself, full of swagger and sentimentality. Although Holbrooke aspired to be like one of the “wise men” who created the post-WWII international order, he never reached the pinnacle of American power he sought. The trajectory of his career was more complicated as he followed America’s entrapments into quagmires around the globe starting with Vietnam and ending with Afghanistan.
The Future is Asian by Parag Khanna (Simon & Schuster, 2019)
As the Founder and Managing Partner of FutureMap, a data and scenario based advisory firm, Dr. Khanna’s perspective on what the “Asian Century” will look like is as stunning and revelatory as it is quintessentially Asian. Khann asserts that the old Europe centric prism through which we used to look at the world is no longer viable. The new Asian system, spanning Saudi Arabia to Japan, Russia to Australia, and Turkey to Indonesia, containing over half of the world’s population and GDP, will be increasingly interconnected by China’s “Belt and Road initiative.” Most daunting is Khanna’s confident assertion that the former leaders of the world will now look to emulate China’s economic, social, and political structures.
VOL. III. by Eric Oakley
Vintage CRimes & New Thrills…
The Main Trail: A Man For all the Miss-Demeanors
Russians and elections; politicians and prostitutes; positions and techniques; truths and lies; money and blackmail. Sound familiar, like reading this morning’s newspaper? Charles McCarry’s Lucky Bastard is laced with vintage dangerous liaisons and humor.
Jack is a handsome and lascivious Harvard graduate with business and law degrees who imagines himself the love-child of JFK. He has the character of a real politico: charm, wide popularity, contempt for rights and feelings of others, an easily downward sliding zipper, no scruples or beliefs, the ability to always give answers that please, and devout cowardice. Dimitri, the narrator, is a Russian agent in the United States who works for the mysterious Peter in Russia. Pulling the strings through Dimitri, Peter attempts to dupe Jack into serving as one of his communist agents. He plans for Jack to rise through the political ranks from local positions to governor, senator, and then President of the United States.
The scheme falls into place, but it does not take long before pieces of it go awry. Peter has problems in Russia and the money dries up. Jack gets involved with organized crime, his lustful libido provides fodder for blackmail, and a long-ago one-night affair comes back to do him in - literally.
Connecting Trail: Political Intrigue
The Tears of Autumn by Charles McCarry – Secret agent Paul Christopher has to determine who arranged the assassination of JFK – hopefully without destroying the legend of the dead president and US foreign policy.
Shelley’s Heart by Charles McCarry – A presidential election is stolen through computer fraud and the life-long friendship of political rivals is at stake.
The Fools in Town Are on Our Side by Ross Thomas – While dealing with the unexpected death of a Chinese double-agent, Lucifer Dye and Victor Orcutt face the difficulties of Orcutt’s First Law: “To get better, it must get much worse.”
Connecting Trail: Sinister Connection to Money
The Force by Don Winslow – Danny Malone who is known to all as the toughest, bravest defender of society is really a dirty cop. This recent hit will surely keep you on the edge of your seat while reading.
Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin – Rebus comes out of retirement to work with his old Edinburgh police colleagues in uncovering the financial chicanery behind the savage beating of an up-start gangster.
The Man Who Smiled by Henning Mankell – Swedish inspector Wallander, in deep personal crisis, investigates a powerful, corrupt business tycoon.
Metzger’s Dog by Thomas Perry – Veteran CIA agent Porterfield - with the help of Dr. Henry Metzger, a cat - determines who carried out a raid to steal top secret agency reports.
Twilight at Mac’s Place by Ross Thomas – The death of an aged spy prompts a race for control of his memoirs – for money, of course…
The Procane Chronicle by Ross Thomas – The greatest thief in the world is in trouble. The greatest go-between in the world finds himself involved in murder and a major heist while trying to help.
Secondary Path: Scamming Funnymen
Chinaman’s Chance by Ross Thomas – Meet Artie Wu and Quincy Durant in the story of a buried fortune scam involving the mafia, a rogue CIA agent, and the “most corrupt little town west of Las Vegas
Out on The Rim by Ross Thomas – When the delivery of a Philippine terrorist for a $5M ransom is at stake, international fixers Wu, pretender to the throne of China, and the volatile Durant answer the call – to serve their own ends.
Voodoo Ltd by Ross Thomas – Wu and Durant’s company is known as Voodoo Ltd. The name is apt for this tale of a con job with returning characters that will surely entertain and make you laugh with quick one-liners.
Final Trails: Killers for Hire
The Butcher’s Boy by Thomas Perry – A professional killer, who never uses his name, is hired to assassinate a sitting senator in this Edgar Award winner.
Trace by Archer Mayor – Three parallel, tension-filled cases in three northeastern states seem, at first, to have simple resolutions, but all end up looking eerily like pro hits.
Kill the Next One by Federico Axat – Ted McKay is hired to kill two men who deserve to die. The terms of the engagement, however, are most unusual.
VOL. II. by Diana Hambleton
Life through the trees...
The Main Trail: A Pulitzer Prize winner's first novel in 14 years...
Driving through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Pulitzer Prize winner Annie Proulx came across a sign she never forgot: “on this site stood the greatest pine forest the world has ever known.” Twenty-five years later, her novel, Barkskins, pays tribute to the fallen hero in a three century North American epic about man’s relationship with trees.
The novel begins with two indentured woodsmen who arrive in New France at the end of the seventeenth century. Each responds differently to the wilderness of “evergreens taller than cathedrals”, the “leaf-choked branches” that merge into a “dark and savage” sky.
For Charles Duke, alias Duquet--self-made, shrewd, and chillingly narcissistic--the forest is all about balancing risk with yield. Hustling between Penobscot Bay and Amsterdam, China and Boston, he builds a lumber empire, shamelessly exploited by subsequent generations for the latest “tree opportunity”—paper, plywood, fiberboard, rare woods.
In contrast, Rene Sels, has a feel for trees and develops into a skilled woodsman. Even though his work involves interminable cutting, lifting and stacking—the constant of biting insects and sweat stung eyes—he enjoys the rhythm of chopping and is perpetually engaged in a “forest dance.” Ditto for the sons, grandsons, and great grandsons that follow him.
But whereas the Duke family benefits financially from timber, the offspring of Rene and Mari, a Mi’kmaq, are metis--part French, part Indian--and suffer from severe discrimination--starvation, unemployment, white man’s diseases and, as recently as 1967, the Canadian residential school system where thousands of aboriginal children either died or were physically or emotionally abused.
This is a long novel—700 pages--but worth the effort: Not just for the dramatic plot and characters (some whisked to jarring deaths before fully flushed out); nor for the author’s grasp of natural science, anthropology and business history; nor her poetic images: the moon receded “like the hand of someone waving goodbye on a ferry.”
No, Barkskins is important because it explores why bad things happen to good people—and good environments—generation after generation. Whereas the Mi’kmaq live respectfully off the gifts of the forest, the European settlers use it ruthlessly as a means to an end: clearing it for farmland, chopping it up for profit. Immensely satisfying, the novel’s end game places the future of trees not just with the educated few, but also with North America’s “first people,” longtime guardians of the natural world.
Connecting Trail: Early North American Settlers
CHANGES IN THE LAND: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England by William Cronon (Hill and Wang, 2003) A field guide to Barkskins by a MacArthur Fellow and semi-finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. One of the first to combine ecology and history, the author shows how the shift from Indian to European dominance effected land development in colonial New England.
CHAMPLAIN’S DREAM by David Hackett Fischer (Simon and Schuster, 2008). The biography of the visionary Father of New France by Pulitzer Prize historian/ author of Washington’s Crossing. Master sailor, soldier, cartographer, artist, naturalist, ethnographer, Champlain is best honored for the relationships of mutual respect established with the Indians.
SHADOWS ON THE ROCK by Willa Cather (Vintage Classics, 1931) In contrast with the howling wilderness, Willa Cather’s candlelight tour of late 17th century Quebec, where counts and bishops, apothecaries and traders struggle to shape a new Canadian identity still loyal to French values. The most charming mix of old and new: wooden lambs next to beavers in the Christmas crèche….
Connecting trail: canada's native Writers today
MEDICINE WALK by Richard Wagamese (Millweed Editions 2015) From acclaimed Ojibway writer and journalist, a plain but deeply moving novel about a son’s lonely journey to lay his estranged father to rest, “the warrior way.”
INDIAN HORSE by Richard Wagamese (Douglas & McIntyre, 2012) How an Ojibway‘s love of ice hockey turns his dismal experience at a residential school into one of fulfillment and redemption.
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH: A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King (Anchor Canada 2013) Combining scholarship and activism, irony and humor, a never-too-heavy but still poignant history of the Indian in North America. A master of “zing,” King separates truth from spin: When governments “admit guilt,” King asks, does that mean "liable"? When they say, “I am sorry” does that mean “responsible?”
Connecting Trail: The Science of Trees
LAB GIRL by Hope Jahren (Knopf 2016): With warmth, humor and passion, this autobiography alternates between the life of a young Fulbright geobiologist—her projects, lab partner, family, dog--and chapter-ettes on the science of trees.
THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES by Peter Wohlleben (Greystone, 2016) With 320,000 copies sold world wide, this best-seller by a German forest ranger uses anthropomorphic language to explain the social network of trees—i.e. How branches lean away from each other to share light with their neighbors; how ill trees receive healing sugars through interdependent root systems.
THE FOREST UNSEEN: A YEAR’S WATCH WITH NATURE by David George Haskell (Penguin 2013) A Pulitzer Prize finalist/ biologist/ poet reflects on monthly changes inside a “mandala”—his metaphor for one square meter of old growth forest in Tennessee. The author’s depth of knowledge plus the immediacy of his perceptions turn readers into on-site observers eager to uncover the latest news.
THE MAN WHO PLANTED TREES: A Story of Lost Groves, the Science of Trees and A Plan to Save The Planet by Jim Robbins (Spiegel and Grau/Random House, 2012). Written by a New York Times Science writer about a man who, following a near-death experience, cloned the world’s champion trees—willows, oaks, redwoods--to preserve their DNA in case of environmental catastrophe. Worked into the human story: how the destruction of forests effects human disease, temperatures, flooding, rain fall and pollution plus the latest techniques in “restoration forestry” and “afforestation” (the planting of new sustainable trees where there have never been any).
THE TREES IN MY FOREST by Bernd Heinrich (Ecco/Harper Collins 2003). Winner of the John Burroughs Medal for Natural History Writing and nominee for a National Book Award, this biography of a 300-acre forest in Maine is told from the viewpoint of a property owner/biologist. Touring his woods, various mysteries are explored: i.e. why some white pine trees produce cones while others do not? Or why the bud of an apple blossom blooms pink on the branch but white in a jar? Personal anecdotes, drawings, and quotations keep the pages turning.
WILDWOOD: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin (Free Press 2009). An icon British naturalist travels off the beaten path to uncover man’s spiritual/cultural connection with wood: the soldiers who carved walking sticks in the trenches during World War I; a hunting party for moths in a moonlit forest; a trek to uncover the ancestral roots of the apple in Kyrgyzstan and the bush plum in Australia. Exotic adventures, exquisite prose.
Connecting Trail: Arts & Craft From the Tree
THE GROUP OF SEVEN and Tom Thompson by David P. Silcox (Firefly Books, 2011). How a group of artists in the 1920’s helped Canada imagine itself in urban, domestic and natural settings. Particularly memorable: portraits of wilderness--sometimes logged wasteland, desperate and empty, sometimes explosions of color and sinuous shapes. The treescape north of the border memorably expressed.
NORTH BY NORTHEAST: Wabanaki, Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora Traditional Arts by Kathleen Mundell (Tilbury House, 2008). Beautifully photographed bark objects and baskets by Native people in New England and maritime Canada, including the 21st century Micmac, celebrated in Barkskins.
AT HOME IN THE AMERICAN BARN by James B. Garrison (Rizzoli, 2016). Showcasing the current trend for reclaimed wood in architecture, twenty-three renovated barns—Vermont to Pennsylvania—showing how the past can invigorate the present, inside and out.
THE MAN WHO MADE THINGS OUT OF TREES by Robert Penn (W.W. Norton, 2016) The Times, London Book of the Year. A British writer/ journalist/ cyclist explores crafting axe handles, baseball bats, toboggans, desks and more from a 60’ high ash tree from his own woods.
CONTEMPORARY TURNED WOOD: New Perspectives in a Rich Tradition By Ray Leier, Jan Peters, and Kevin Wallace (Hand Books Press 1999) One-of-a-kind containers by master turners. Some emphasize the imprint of nature, others layer the wood with add on techniques: sandblasting, piercing, painting, assemblage.
THE SOUL OF A TREE: A WOODWORKER’S REFLECTIONS by George Nakashima (Kodansha, 2011) How an artist-craftsman’s knowledge of grain, proportion, wetting and matching turns a fallen tree into furniture sculpture. Insightful prose and sketches.
EMILIE BRZEZINSKI: THE LURE OF THE FOREST by John Beardsley & Aneta Georgievska-Shine (D.A.P/Distributed Art Publishers, Inc. 2014). The mother of Mika (co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe) and wife of Zbigniew (National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration) who was inspired by minimalism and natural forms to breathe new life into fallen trees. Work includes arches, bowls, benches, abstract sculptures and entire forests of branchless trunks. See also the tree art of DAVID NASH (Introduction by Norbert Lynton, Abrams, 2007).
WOOD by Andy Goldsworthy (Thames and Hudson, 2013). Snow balls, stacked sheets of ice, spires of stone, “thorned” together leaves—each placed in situ with trunks and branches, then photographed by the famous British land artist to capture the interaction of nature and trees.
BARK by Cedric Pollet (Frances Lincoln Limited, 2010). More like abstract paintings than photography, 81 close-ups of bark from around the world, each “camouflage” pattern combining edgy texture and hue--from parrot psychedelic to peregrine browns.
ANSEL ADAMS TREES (Edited by Janet Swan Bush, Little Brown and Company, 2004) Captured by the much honored nature photographer, the moods of trees—orchards dancing; parched stumps, dying; pines reclusive in the mist. No muddled statement--each black and white print rings with the clarity of a crystal bell.
Secondary Path: Children & trees
STRANGE TREES AND THE STORIES BEHIND THEM by Bernadette Pourquie and Cecile Gambini (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016) Using imaginative out-loud language plus whimsical borders, this magical book tells the story of 16 unusual trees from around the world: i.e. the Chocolate tree from South America, the Ghost tree from China, the Sausage Tree from Africa.
PLANTING THE TREES OF KENYA: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A Nivola (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008). Brought up to think not of herself, but the world beyond, Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and Founder of the Green Belt Movement, was a one-woman effort to reverse the destruction of commercial agriculture on local Kenyan life. Her solution: plant seeds and grow trees. Miniature-like illustrations help little people relate to activists early on.
DK EYEWITNESS TREE by David Burnie (DK Penguin/Random House, 2015) For older children, a reference book about the science of trees—their history, how they grow, their body parts, their care and management (including deforestation and conservation). Stunning layout for a wonderfully educational book.
THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein (Harper Collins, 1964) A family read in honor of the tree, which, since the beginning of time, has given selflessly to each and every one of us.
--Tree Climbing: The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring by Richard Preston (Random House, 2007) is the story of the men who climb three hundred feet up into the lost world of redwood canopies, a labyrinth of huckleberry bushes, hanging gardens of ferns and organisms yet to be named. If you are psyched to DIY, check out the school run by the author’s teacher’s teachers, Peter and Patty Jenkins Tree Climber International in Atlanta (www.treeclimbing.com). Their two-day program for beginners will get you started.
For a climb up a Douglas fir that can include a dinner party or an overnight in a “treeboat/sleeping hammock” 160 feet up, contact Oregon’s Pacific Tree Climbing Institute (www.pacifictreeclimbing.com).
--Treehouse Hotels: Vacation close to the stars in Swedish Lapland, where leading Scandinavian architects have designed sustainable “tree house” lodgings in a pine forest overlooking the Lule River. The hotel offers individual treehouses with imaginative themes (UFO, bird’s nest, mirrored cube) plus cutting edge adventures--dogsledding, ice dining and northern light photography (www. treehotel.se/).
Inspired to build your own treehouse—thatched roof, Gothic windows, bamboo paneled walls-- see BE IN A TREEHOUSE by Pete Nelson (Abrams, 2014) for amazing ideas.
--Arbor Day Foundation: To help create a world with cleaner air and water; reduced climate change, species loss and poverty; and beauty for the human soul, become an activist by planting trees in your community. For more information visit, www.arborday.com.
--Gibbes Museum of Art: Volunteer to help artist Patrick Dougherty weave twigs and branches together to create environmental sculpture at the Gibbes Museum during March 2017. See Patrick Dougherty Installation.
VOL. I By Diana Hambleton
First Couples: The Churchills
The Main trail: A BOOK ABOUT CLEMENTINE…
Winston Churchill, Britain’s most celebrated Prime Minister of the twentieth century, felt his “finest hour” was persuading Clementine Hozier to marry him. Not surprising! According to Sonia Purnell’s new biography about the long overlooked First Lady of Downing Street who inspired and sustained her husband during decades of crises. His sense of destiny, the author maintains, would never have been fulfilled without her...
For Winston and Clemmie, love took hold their first time as dinner partners: he was fascinated by her ethereal beauty: she by the public excitement swirling about him. Smitten, he proposed within months in a garden folly—a mini Greek temple--at Blenheim Palace, his ancestral home. Fifty-seven years, 1700 letters/notes and five children later, the marriage remained the emotional centerpiece of both their lives.
Like Winston, Clemmie was descended from an aristocratic but dysfunctional family. Shy and anxiety ridden—she battled depression throughout her life--she was also intelligent, strong willed and talented. During their marriage she grew from athlete/gallery browser/legendary hostess into her husband’s most trusted political advisor: she clipped newspaper articles, edited speeches, and during wartime, was privy to classified maneuvers. But her real genius was how she managed his genius—its ups and downs. Insisting he temper self-absorption with sensitivity to colleagues and staff, she wrote, “You won’t get the best results by irascibility and rudeness”—a reminder he kept in his desk drawer until he left office. “She boosted but never betrayed…counseled but also challenged, chided as well as consoled,” explains Purnell.
During the Blitz, when England was bombed by the Nazis for 267 days, Clemmie represented the social conscience of the Government: she frequented bombed out neighborhoods, volunteered as a rooftop fire watcher and personally responded to the health and sanitation emergencies of strung out citizens. When, for safety reasons, the women in munitions factories tucked their hair inside turbans, she concocted a similar look with bold colored scarves. With this gesture of solidarity, Clemmie let the world know that British women were “carrying on” with confidence and style.
Connecting Trails: About Winston...
Churchill: A Life by Martin Gilbert, (Henry Holt and Company, 1991)
The official biography— years of research that combines public fact and personal detail into one volume about his life.
The dazzling war and peace epic of the life and times of the illustrious Prime Minister.
By the biographer of Eishenhower and Patton, D’Este focuses on Churchill’s attitudes towards war and his role as operational general.
The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History by Boris Johnson, (Riverhead Books, 2014)
A witty, uplifting, fast-paced read about Churchill’s life and influence today by the former “blond bombshell” Mayor of London.
No More Champagne: Churchill and His Money by David Lough, (Picador, 2015)
A study of the tangled personal finances of the statesman.
Secondary Paths: About the Churchill Family And their friends...
Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill by Ralph G. Martin, (Reprinted by Sourcebooks 2008)
The well researched story of Winston Churchill’s gutsy American mother, who “shone for him like the evening star…but at a distance.”
The biography of Clemmie’s very extended family: the six daughters of the 2nd Baron Redesdale, and their eccentric (sometimes scandalous) lives as novelist, Fascist, Communist and Duchess.
The story of three Americans—CBS journalist Edward R. Murrow, Lend-Lease Facilitator, W. Averell Harriman and US Ambassador to Britain, John Gilbert Winant,—who persuaded FDR and a reluctant United States to join the fight against Hitler.
The Gathering Storm tells the story of Winston Churchill (Albert Finney) as he wages a battle against Nazi tyranny while facing obstacles in his marriage to Clementine (Vanessa Redgrave).
The Churchill Centre, founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill death, is the world’s preeminent member organization dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill. At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.
To become a member of the Centre, please click here.
Chartwell was the principal adult home of Sir Winston Churchill. Churchill and his wife Clementine bought the property, located two miles south of Westerham, Kent, England, in 1922.