Mary Soames (1922) is the youngest daughter of Winston Churchill with wife Clementine. She is the only survivor of the five children they had, which makes this memoir even more revealing. In her book A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child, published in the United States by Random House, Soames recounts her life up to the time she was 25. On every page one can feel the love with which she remembers her father, Britain’s leader during World War II and a gigantic political figure of undeniable historical influence.
Her stories are rich with warmth and affection, offering a softer side of the politician many considered cold and a stern negotiator. The narration includes memories of her beloved London, where they had a house on exclusive Downing Street, and her escapades to the country house in Kent, a place Churchill named Chartwell Manor, now under the care of the British National Trust.
She was aware of the fact that her childhood was different from that of other British children of the 1920s. She enjoyed all kinds of toys and clothes made to order by the best English tailors. Her privileged social circle allowed her to meet some of the most interesting people in the world, including Joseph Stalin, Lawrence of Arabia, Charlie Chaplin and a long list of others.
Some of the book’s passages are fragments of letters written to her by her parents, and diaries she wrote throughout the years, never with the intention of publishing them. But this is not the first time Mary Soames writes her memoirs. In 1979 she published a monograph about her mother Clementine. The critically acclaimed book revealed some family secrets never before published, like the death of her sister Marigold when she was only three years old, an event that forever marked the life of the entire family, especially Clementine’s.
The intimacy in her stories could make one forget the political weight of her father, or the fact that Mary herself has a royal title: Rt. Hon. Baroness Soames, LG, DBE, FRSL. She and Margaret Thatcher are the only two women to be given the title of Lady without a noble background. Queen Elizabeth II conferred it in 2005.
This book is not just a collection of anecdotes. It has exceptional historical value, and accurately describes unpublished details of the private life of Winston Churchill, information that allows us to better understand the crucial decisions he made on behalf of Great Britain and the free world. ■