Always interested in new biographies of significant women in our culture and history, I put Mary Soames’ book at the top of my pile. As a youngster, myself, when Winston Churchill died, I knew him only as a historic figure on the world stage, the powerhouse Prime Minister of England, the lion of the British government, and a cigar aficionado. What I learned from reading the biography A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child (Random House, 2012) was how tender and nurturing he was as Mary’s father.
Mary Soames is the youngest and only surviving child of Winston and Clementine Churchill. Mary was their “consolation baby” following the death of their daughter, Marigold. She was born in 1922 and brought up at the family home known as Chartwell in Kent. Her bond with her father, as shown in this book, was immediate, extremely warm, and lasted to the end of the great man’s life. Her relationship with her mother didn’t really bloom until later, but Mary always had the highest regard and admiration for her.
Her nurse, Nana, helped raise her and influenced the person she grew to be. They remained close throughout her life. Her mother traveled often and her father, “WSC” as Mary liked to refer to him, was very much a hands-on, involved parent, even in Mary’s very early years. This is surprising when you consider the demands of his work and his importance in global politics.
Because Mary’s siblings were much older than she, Mary grew up in the company of adults; she was directly involved in her parents’ associations. Their friends included many powerful people, famous artists and entertainers from all over the globe. Chaplain, De Gaulle, T.E. Lawrence/Shaw, the Roosevelts, among many others, were known to Mary and she to them.
Following school, in 1941, she joined the Army Transport Service with a desire to make a difference and to do her part for the war. She later trained and served in anti-aircraft batteries in England and Europe. She traveled extensively with her father on his wartime journeys.
It seems clear that the bulk of this book came directly from Mary’s diaries, which she started in childhood, as well as an excellent recollection of her life’s many memorable moments. She is thorough in her writing, often including menus and guest lists in the pages of the events described.
She made many friends her own age along the way and even broke some hearts. This book comes to a rather sudden end when, at the age of 25, Mary meets and marries Christopher Soames. This leads me to wonder if there will be a second book, telling the rest of the story of Mary’s remarkable life.