‘Life is not always what we want it to be, but to make the best of it as it is – is the only way of being happy,’ Jennie Churchill wrote to her demanding first-born son, Winston, in 1896. A young widow, she was trying to use her influence with Lord Kitchener to enable Winston, as he wanted, to serve in the Egyptian army for two years. But she warned him that she might not be able to pull it off and in any case had doubts as to whether it was the right thing for him. She added that she was sending him £25, with a further £25 to follow. It was all she could afford.
It’s a typical letter, mixing practical and philosophical advice, in this entertaining and illuminating collection, which could be read at a gallop or at leisure. As a whole, it is a deeply moving account of a single mother’s attempt, with very limited means at her disposal, to do her