Citizens of London
How Britain Was Rescued in Its Darkest, Finest Hour
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
[Toronto] : Bond Street Books, 2010
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