Citizens of London

Citizens of London

How Britain Was Rescued in Its Darkest, Finest Hour

Book - 2010
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While justly acclaimed as the closest, most successful military partnership in history, the "special relationship" forged between the United States and Britain during World War II was anything but the inevitable alliance it appears to be in hindsight. As the countries of Western Europe fell one by one to Hitler, and Britain alone resisted him, aid from the U.S. was late, expensive, and reluctantly granted by an isolationist government that abhorred the idea of another world war.

Citizens of London is the behind-the-scenes story of the slow, difficult growth of the Anglo-American wartime alliance, told from the perspective of three key Americans in London who played vital roles in creating it and making it work. In her close-focus, character-driven narrative, Lynne Olson, former White House journalist and LA Times Book Prize finalist for her last book, Troublesome Young Men , sets the three Americans - Averell Harriman, Edward R. Murrow, and John Gilbert Winant - at the heart of her dramatic story.

Harriman was the rich, well-connected director of President Roosevelt's controversial Lend-Lease program in which the U.S., a still neutral country, "loaned" military equipment to the UK; Murrow, the handsome, innovative head of CBS News, was the first person to broadcast over live, on-location radio to the American public, and Winant, the least known but most crucial of the three, was the shy former New Hampshire governor who became the new U.S. ambassador to England after Joseph Kennedy quit the post and fled the country as bombs rained down around him.

Citizens of London opens in 1941 at the bleakest period of the war, when Britain withstood nine months of nightly bomb attacks and food and supplies were running out as German ships and U-boats had the island nation surrounded. Churchill was demanding and imploring FDR to help, but the U.S. did its best to ignore England's desperate plight. It was the work of these three key men, Olson argues, that eventually changed American attitudes. So above all this is a human story, focusing on the individuals who shaped this important piece of history. Key to the book is the extremely close relationship between Winston Churchill and the three Americans, and indeed, so intimate were their ties that all three men had love affairs with women in Churchill's family.

Set in the dangerous, vibrant world of wartorn London, Citizens of London is rich, highly readable, engrossing history, the story of three influential men and their immediate circle who shaped the world we live in.
Publisher: [Toronto] : Bond Street Books, c2010
ISBN: 9780385669375
Branch Call Number: 940.531 Ols 3558ad 1
Characteristics: xix, 471 p. :,ill


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Oct 30, 2012

A brilliant social history and triple biography, this is a superb introduction to the Second War. The star may be the city of London before and during the Second War, but the narrative gravitates around the key roles played by three US citizens: Winant, the ambassador; A Harriman the meddlesome Lend-Lease mogul; and Ed Murrow, the journalist par excellence. Told by a US writer who has no difficulty reporting the facts that don't put her country in the best light. Touches on a myriad of related subjects, including the shock of the Brits at the racism in US ranks, the promiscuity of just about everyone during the war, including all three protagonists, the tensions between FDR and Winston, governments-in-exile vying for attention, inlcuding the ambitious arrogance of De Gaulle and his rise to power in the face of Allied resistance, the betrayal of the Poles by the Allies in the face of Soviet intransigence, etc. As strongly recommended as Lynne Olson's Troublesome Young Men, about the slow and against-the-odds rise of Churchill to power in Britain after the war was launched.

Dec 02, 2011

This is a fresh and revealing account of the US/Brit relationship during WWII. It centres on the intertwined experiences of journalist Edward R. Murrow, FDR's special envoy Averell Harriman and U. S. Ambassador Winant , but tells a much broader story as well. A terrific read; highly recommended.

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