This is a very good work of narrative, popular history. It reminds you that, not so long ago, in the lives of our grandparents and great-grandparents, the reign of kings, kings with real power. That was certainly the case for the kings of Germany (only so recently combined into a nation-state) and of Russia, much less so for Britain ... even still their Queen Victoria & her two successors had more apparent power than the current regime, if only on the diplomatic level, with their relatives elsewhere in Europe. The details of the lives of these various heads-of-state, their international networks and the political leadership, is a great story. I am not sure you can say the 3 leaders on the eve of World War I, together, had a great influence on the breakout and course of war, although the author does a great job showing that Kaiser Wilhelm (an extraordinarily peculiar person) did have a role in this.
The book is well organized, it does not have too many characters (although I am familiar with the general history) and is well narrated.
This book by Lynne Olson recovers some history that is not well-known to Americans, specifically the way in which a few key figures from the US, in the UK during the late-1930s & early-1940s, were instrumental in getting the US (rightfully) into rightfully into World War II. Contrary to the way in which we read this history today, this was a close-run thing, not obvious (especially during the ambassadorship of Joe Kennedy) to US leaders nor UK leaders that a true military collaboration would come to pass in the dark days of 1939 & 1940, when "England stood alone." It is well-worth getting this book if you are interested in the real history of this period or in WWII history.
I have dinged it slightly, 4 stars rather than 5, because the latter half of the book contains familiar material if you are familiar with the period after the US buildup, or of the complicated relationship between FDR, Churchill, DeGaulle & Stalin. And because Lynne Olson's previous book, "Troublesome Young Men - The Rebels who brought Churchill to Power ..." was so much better, more focused, than this one. Hopefully Audible will try to get that book in audio too.
This book focuses almost entirely on the first year of Hitler's leadership of Germany, told from the perspective of some "ordinary" folks, principally the US ambassador to Germany and his 20-something daughter. The book is written beautifully, with much interweaving of such primary sources as letters, diaries and recollections (including a book written by the daughter in 1939). It also includes details on the lives of the two principals, the bumbling but well-meaning ambassador & his fights with the snobby suits at the State Department. And the loves and partying of the daughter. I thought the book was very well narrated too.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
What an amazing book! I listened well into the night, the story and the narration were so compelling. I can't recommend it highly enough! Today, I am enlightened, appalled, grieved, very angry, and even alarmed about an event that happened half a world away over 150 years ago. I'd say that's a tribute to any historical account!
Like nearly all Americans, I was familiar with the reason so many Irish left their country in the 1840's. Mostly, it was, to me, more a story of American immigration than Irish tragedy. Well, no more! This is gut-wrenching, heart-breaking stuff, and, like all the best histories, brings to life the events and people of the time.
Can you believe it? The legislature of the most powerful and wealthy country of the time failed to react adequately to a natural disaster because 1} the poor in Ireland (a lazy bunch, anyway) might become dependent on government handouts; 2) giving away food would disrupt the free market (perfectly good non-potato food was, throughout the famine, being exported at great profit from Ireland); and 3) Party squabbles and greedy personal agendas meant too little action and too little political will to help the poor (and even the formerly relatively prosperous). This could never happen again, right?
So, besides being the terrible story of an awful time in Ireland that affected the entire world, this is a dire warning for the future. Bad economies, failing crops, and over-population are international problems. Once again, we'd better know our history and heed its lessons!
Beautifully written by John Kelly and compellingly narrated by Gerard Doyle, this is an important, important book. Don't miss it!