2 August 2021

Book Review: Wayward Daughter: Sarah Churchill and Her World, by Miranda Brooke


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Intoxicating and entertaining, this exploration of the life of Sarah Churchill has a surprise on every page, and reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the period. Unquestionably privileged and rebellious, Sarah seemed to spend a lot of time with the Mitford sisters (cousins on her mother’s side of the family) and had a surprisingly successful career as a RADA actress. This brought her into contact with literary men from J.M Barrie to Evelyn Waugh and Noel Coward, both of whom were regular visitors. 

She is tearful after hearing of the death of T. E. Lawrence, (who called at Chartwell on his motorcycle a week before his fateful accident. It was Sarah who first introduced her young relative, Lady Diana Spencer, to her work with young children. 

Sarah seemed to come of age with the outbreak of the second world war, when her father helped her to secure a vital wartime post in top-secret photo interpretation. Amazingly, Sarah was a member of the team who saved countless lives by spotting German ‘flying bomb’ launching sites, and later V2 rocket bases.

As her father’s ADC, Sarah also met the most influential men of the time, from future president General Eisenhower to Roosevelt and Stalin at the pivotal 1945 Yalta Conference. Winston Churchill made good use of his daughter’s natural charm, and would ensure she was seated next to the right people at formal dinners (no doubt gathering invaluable information. 

I was fascinated by the glimpses of her father’s character from this unusual perspective, and would have liked more about Sarah’s mother, Baroness Clementine Ogilvy Spencer Churchill, who remains a somewhat shadowy figure. 

Sometimes the details came so fast this book became almost a ‘stream of consciousness’, and I often found myself going back to re-read passages.  Sarah Churchill might have seemed ‘wayward’ by the standards of the time, but there is no question she lived her life to the full. This is book I will read again and am happy to recommend.

Tony Riches

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