American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill

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Overview

A frank account of the tempestuous life of the American mother of Britain’s most important twentieth-century politician.
Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome married into the British aristocracy in 1874, after a three-day romance. She became Lady Randolph Churchill, wife of a maverick politician and mother of the most famous British statesman of the century. Jennie Churchill was not merely the most talked about and controversial American woman in London society, she was a dynamic ...

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American Jennie: The Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill

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Overview

A frank account of the tempestuous life of the American mother of Britain’s most important twentieth-century politician.
Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome married into the British aristocracy in 1874, after a three-day romance. She became Lady Randolph Churchill, wife of a maverick politician and mother of the most famous British statesman of the century. Jennie Churchill was not merely the most talked about and controversial American woman in London society, she was a dynamic behind-the-scenes political force and a woman of sexual fearlessness at a time when women were not supposed to be sexually liberated. A concert pianist, magazine founder and editor, and playwright, she was also, above all, a devoted mother to Winston. In American Jennie, Anne Sebba draws on newly discovered personal correspondences and archives to examine the unusually powerful mutual infatuation between Jennie and her son and to relate the passionate and ultimately tragic career of the woman whom Winston described as having “the wine of life in her veins.”

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

As Winston Churchill's mother and close adviser, Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome (1854-1921) may have rated a chapter in the history books. But steeped in scandal, the passionate, ambitious and beautiful Gilded Age heiress has been fodder for several biographies of her own, including Ralph Martin's two-volume bestseller (1969-1971). The daughter of a maverick stock speculator, Jennie was probably pregnant with Winston when she married the duke of Marlborough's second son, Randolph. She was a tireless supporter of her husband's rising political career, and endured his sexual dalliances, mental unraveling (probably from syphilis) and eventual death. She earned a reputation as a journalist, dazzling socialite, shameless booster of Winston's political aspirations, and as a financially imprudent woman who indulged in a string of sexually charged affairs. Indeed, Jennie's younger son, Jack, may have been fathered by a handsome colonel and viscount, and her purported lovers may have included the prince of Wales. After Randolph's death, she remarried twice to men 20 years her junior, and died at 67 after a bad fall caused by her high heels. Sebba's (Mother Teresa) admiring biography is absorbing, authoritative and makes good use of family letters. 16 pages of photos. (Nov.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Biographer and journalist Sebba (Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image)has written a well-researched book on the life of Jennie Jerome Churchill, the wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and mother of Winston Churchill. While recent popular biographies (e.g., Charles Higham's Dark Lady) have dwelt much on her affairs during her marriage, this book focuses more on her domestic role. The author uses Churchill family papers and previous biographies to provide a vivid portrait that gives readers a good understanding of Lady Churchill as both vivacious and intelligent. Sebba quotes Winston Churchill saying of her "Her life was a full one. The wine of life was in her veins." The definitive biography must remain Ralph G. Martin's two-volume Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill. While Sebba does use some new sources, she also uses material from Higham for which he himself did not provide attribution. For public libraries wanting a nice supplement to Martin (the preferred title for academic libraries), this will serve as a welcome addition.
—Diane Fulkerson

Kirkus Reviews
The eventful life of Winston Churchill's mother, recounted by a writer who has penned similar tomes on Mother Teresa and Laura Ashley. Sebba (Exiled Collector, 2004, etc.) draws on many sources for her biography of Lady Randolph Churchill (1854-1921), born Jennie Jerome in Brooklyn, N.Y., but she makes especially good use of an extensive archive of personal correspondence. Jennie's early years are quickly dispensed with, and the main narrative begins with a whirlwind romance that inserted this American beauty into the English aristocracy. She met 24-year-old Randolph Churchill at a shipboard ball in the summer of 1873; three days later, they considered themselves engaged. From this point on, Sebba's text is laced with long quotations from letters Jennie wrote and received, and they add real dramatic verve to her retelling. "I love you better than anything on earth," averred Randolph in an epistle written during the eight months it took the impetuous young couple to win consent from their reluctant parents. Sebba paints the big picture via myriad small details, making note of exchanges about the perils of smoking, telling stories about young Winston's demanding nature as a child and indicating that Jennie was often bored by the pomp and ceremony that surrounded someone in her position. She had various affairs while still married to Randolph and wed twice more after his death in 1895. Jennie didn't live long enough to see Winston become prime minister, yet Sebba offers plenty of evidence to suggest that she was an early political mentor to her son, including fascinating passages about their joint opposition to the suffragettes and quotes from friends who observed her "unswerving faith inhis capacities." Such material provides welcome insight into their relationship. A conscientious undertaking that offers plenty of food for thought.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393350289
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/1/2007
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 962,724
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Anne Sebba is a biographer, journalist, lecturer, and author of six books, including the best-selling Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image and Laura Ashley: A Life by Design. She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    Interesting

    History is very interesting to read when its written in this fashion!!! Good book will diffiently read this and related book again this time in history very interesting and romantic

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2014

    Anonymous

    This biography of Jenni (Jerome) Churchill is well researched; providing insight into her life and the family around her. However, the writing is often difficult to follow and makes assumptions about the reader's prior knowledge of the times and the individuals presented. Editing for this electronic version seems to be a problem periodically. Also, none of the pictures of the print version are included, something which would enhance the book!

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