Martin is clearly sympathetic to his subject, and he certainly minimizes her faults. Clearly, she used her sexual favors to manipulate men, and, at times, turned a cold, unloving shoulder to her sons. A biographer could easily have portrayed her as self-absorbed, even unkind, and some of her son Winston’s biographers have done so. To Martin, however, she is a heroic figure succeeding, if not always fully, in the face of great odds. It is hard not to like the Jennie of Martin’s description, and young and old alike will enjoy reading her story.

In Jennie, there are three general areas of focus. The first is her life in society, in which both her husband and lovers play prominent roles. Martin plays down the extramarital affairs and makes clear that such activities were hardly uncommon in the Edwardian upper classes. Second, Jennie’s political activity as supporter and sometimes director of her husband’s career is a theme. Because of the distance between husband and wife (quite possibly the result of the effects of his illness), they became more partners than lovers. Thus, her work on his behalf becomes more important than the personal relationship that otherwise might have dominated. Finally, Martin pays significant attention to parental activities. Given the eventual importance of Winston Churchill and his mother’s influence upon him, this is an important topic. Martin argues that Jennie’s maternal influence was an inspiration, even...

(The entire section is 472 words.)