In certain segments of our society, both in the past and present, a woman’s highest achievement was having a Mrs. attached to her name and at least one child at her feet. While some women were content to live within those parameters, others have taken the bold step of being more than someone’s wife and mother.
Clementine Churchill was one of the females. Married to the late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, she was more than his other half and the mother of their children. She was his unofficial right-hand woman and his most trusted advisor. Her story is told in the 2020 novel, Lady Clementine. Written by Marie Benedict, the narrative takes the reader through the first half of the twentieth century. It starts with the early days of their marriage and ends with World War II. Through the decades, she deals with personal issues, as well as the complications of being a politician’s wife and everything that comes with that.
Through it all, Clementine has a spine made of figurative steel, ambition, and a sharp mind that transforms her into a feminist icon and a female who was ahead of her time.
Like Benedict’s 2016 novel, The Other Einstein, and Victoria Kelly’s Mrs. Houdini: A Novel, this story gives Clementine a voice and a spotlight beyond her title as Mrs. Churchill. I can’t help but think that if she would have been alive today, she would have been a politician in her own right. It proves, that if given the opportunity, we can potentially succeed in areas that were previously out of reach due to our gender.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Lady Clementine is available wherever books are sold.
There are some men (both in the past and present) in this world who cannot fathom the idea that a woman can be more than a wife and a mother. When she dares to enter his world, he will do anything in his power to strip away her power and status.
One of these women is Rosalind Franklin. One of the scientists who discovered and published her findings on DNA, her male colleagues claimed her work as their own after her passing. Franklin’s story is told in the new novel Her Hidden Genius. Written by Marie Benedict and published in January, Franklin was ahead of her time. In the years after World War II, the daughter of a respected and wealthy British Jewish family chose work over marriage and motherhood.
Employed by labs in both London and Paris, she was the only female on nearly all-male teams. While working in the UK, three of her male co-workers did everything they could to upstage and unnerve her instead of coming together to reach a common goal.
Benedict does it again. She gives the spotlight to a woman who rightly deserves it. Up until I read this book, Rosalind Franklin was a complete stranger to me. I am thoroughly ashamed that it has taken almost a century for her to be given the credit she is rightly due. The narrative immediately sucked me in. By the time I got to the final page, I felt like I knew her, both a person and a feminist icon.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
Her Hidden Genius is available wherever books are sold.
Between 1850 and 1930, millions immigrated to America, looking for a better life and a brighter future.
Clara Kelley was one of them. She is the heroine in Marie Benedict’s 2018 book, Carnegie’s Maid. In her native Ireland, Clara knows nothing but poverty and hunger via the great potato famine. The daughter of farming family, she has nothing to lose when she emigrates to America. But she has everything to lose when she takes the identity of another woman with the same name who died on the voyage to America. The job she has taken is that of lady’s maid to the imperious mother of steel magnate and future philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Mrs. Carnegie knows what she wants in a lady’s maid and makes no bones about firing girls who do not meet her exacting standards.
Intelligent and very capable, Clara becomes friends with her mistress’s son. As they become closer and their friendship becomes something more, the harder it becomes for Clara’s secret to stay a secret. Will her true identity ever be revealed and will the consequences of that revelation be?
I loved this book. Ms. Benedict has a way of immediately drawing her readers in and telling the stories of women whose stories would normally not be told. Though the narrative has a Jane Eyre-ish undercurrent, it does not end the way I would have expected the narrative to end.
There is a stereotype about women: their looks dictate their intellect. A pretty woman lacks in the intelligence department while an unattractive woman soars in the intelligence department.
Back in the day, Hedy Lamarr (b0rn as Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler) was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood. She was also incredibly smart, but given the era, her intellectual abilities were not exactly respected or appreciated.
The new book, The Only Woman in the Room, by Marie Benedict is Ms. Lamarr’s story from her perspective. The book starts when she is 19. It’s the early 1930’s in Vienna. She is a budding actress who catches the eye of a wealthy and powerful arms dealer. To protect herself and her family, she marries this man. While she plays the role of dutiful wife, she absorbs everything that she hears and sees.
When the marriage turns abusive and it becomes clear that her Jewish ancestry will put her in harm’s way, she escapes to Hollywood. In her new life and career, she is Hedy Lamarr, silver screen goddess. But she has a secret that only a few select people are privy to: she is a scientist. Her invention could possibly end the war and save lives, if those in power would give her work a chance.
I was shocked how much I loved this book. Before reading it, I was aware of Hedy Lamarr as a movie star and had heard that she was an inventor. But other than the basic facts, I was unaware of her complete story. I loved this book because it is the story of a woman who is clearly intelligent and capable, but is underappreciated for those qualities due to the era she lived in.
The issue with this statement (at least from my perspective) is that while a man is pushed to succeed and accomplish his goals, a woman is encouraged to put her dreams and aspirations aside to support her man.
Mileva Marić had as much potential to succeed in the world of science and math as her husband, Albert Einstein. But because she was a woman and he was a man, she put her ambitions aside to support his ambitions. Their story is told in the new book, The Other Einstein, by Marie Benedict. Mileva (or Mitza as she was known to her loved ones) met her future husband at University. As the only female student in her program, Mileva worked hard to earn the respect of her teachers and classmates. While Mileva was putting everything she had into earning her degree, Albert was not really putting in the effort. He was the kind of student a teacher might describe as having potential, if he was was willing to do the work to see that potential become reality.
They marry after Albert graduates and for a while, it seems like a solid and happy marriage. But as Albert’s fame and success grows, his marriage to Mileva is slowly shifting to shaky ground. Will their marriage last or will his fame break up what once appeared to be a perfect relationship?
I really loved this book. I loved it because it introduced me to a side of a legend that I had not known before. And frankly, it was a side that I didn’t like at certain points in the book. I also loved it because Ms. Benedict gave a voice to a woman who should have been able to succeed in her chosen field, but didn’t because of the era she lived in. It was a reminder to me that I shouldn’t take the educational and career opportunities for granted because it was not that long ago that woman had to fight for the opportunities that seem normal in 2018.