While there was some great historical information in the book I felt that it was quite a lot to slog through. I love history books and I love long history books, as long as they are well organized and engaging. This one took me 3 weeks to get through.
Had it been a biography of Winant, Harriman and Murrow, I think it would have been much more engaging but it veered off into many other directions. It's as if the author gathered much more research that she needed and was damned determined to fit it all in one book. It really needed some editing. Also, a good historical author should be able to leave her own political views out of historical text. She was completely unable to do that and I feel that it cheapened the value of the book overall.
It's not a horrible book and I learned a lot about all 3 of these men, but I don't think I could recommend it to anyone except a hard core history buff who has a lot of time and patience.
A transplanted Englishman, I spend my time on biography, history and military books. I appreciate good English and good narration.
Well written and thoroughly researched even if it suffers, as do so many historical works, from over exposition. Its three main characters, Harriman, Morrow and Linant, are brought into sharp focus with fascinating anecdotes and unabashed details of their private lives. I felt I could sit down to dinner with these three as if I knew them personally by the end of the book.
Inevitably, the book requires a deep context. Those who already know of the Churchill, Roosevelt and even Stalin relationships may find themselves re-reading; those who have read such experts as Ambrose and Keegan will not need the World War II historical episodes. However, the author relates such diversions to their diplomatic implications tightly and this distraction, if it occurs, will not irritate I suspect.
The reader is clear and relaxing as is needed for such a long treatise. However, as a small point...Lord Salisbury is "...Sauls-bury..."; Sandys is "...Sands..."; Cadogan is "...Kerr-DUGG-un..." I'll do you the favour of not trying to give you his pronunciation and even if Americans have a right to use their own language as they feel fit, proper names should be managed with respect.
I have edited 38 national best sellers and had a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
If you like history, don't miss this book. It's one of the best I've read. It focuses on three influential Americans--Edward R. Murrow, Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, and Averell Harriman--in London in the years leading up the America's involvement in World War II and thereafter. They so empathized with the British and tried to get FDR unstuck, hoping he and Congress would realize the ramifications for the US if the Nazis defeated Britain.
I've read a lot about this period, but the book provides content I'd never seen before. I loved it.
An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.
I thoroughly enjoyed the audio version thanks to Arthur Morey's narration. I consider it an excellent method of getting the story told accurately. I don't know if the print version could be any better than this.
The story of Gil Winant, of which I had never before even heard of this heroic man. Why do we not hear of such heroes? He was a real man who did wonderful things. He is my new hero!
Morey's performance is terrific! He tells this story with such emphasis on everything I never knew about WWll. His diction and empathy is spot on.
Three men who brought America into WWll for our greatest hour!
This book tells so much more than any history or war movie ever had.
I am so disappointed in the way the United States acted in WWll and the fact that we really have learned so little since than in our arrogance and ability to live as if we are the only people to win the war. I hope that some day we Americans will learn that we don't have to rule the world to have a place in it.
This is not the most tightly conceived, scholarly, or even original treatment of the period but it's a great listen and wonderfully read (except for the mispronounciation of KEYNES, as in John Maynard). For anyone interested looking as much for entertainment as enlightenment, I say you can't go wrong.
i was not quite an enamoured by this as some of the reviewers.
first, while the 3 leading characters flow in and out of the narrative throughout, this is not a book about them. This is a book about the alliance between england and the US. I agree with many other reviewers that, although i have read many books on this period of history, i have never had one that brings as much appreciation to this particular relationship between two countries. Its especially timely now, given the ongoing struggles to maintain unity amongst the democracies against common foes. And the three protagonists are all very compelling figures, as is the description of war time London/Europe, which really comes to life. While we think of the greatest generation here as a unique one. what they went through is nothing compared to the suffering in Europe.
The bad...I found to author's tone soporific. The book is a little morose, and perhaps the author is well suited, but at times i found my attention drifting. This is epsecially true in the middle. At this point I really felt the book was overrated, however, the ending is outstanding and really puts the entire period in perspective.
Overall I recommend this very highly, and I would have given it 5 stars if it were not a little bit of a struggle in the middle.
This is a remarkable book which describes how some insightful, influential and forward thinking Americans came to the aid of Britain during WWII. It also exposes those whose aim was to bring Britain to her knees by taking advantage of the precarious situation Britain was in to bankrupt her and set the stage for a post-war takeover of her trade. "Lend-lease" which meant that the US sold the UK old and decrepit ships for wickedly inflated prices and kept Britain poor following the war when the US helped Germany and Japan rebuild and left Britain starving was only finally repaid a few years ago; this was a deliberate policy of Americans who hated Britain and envied her pre-war status. The skulduggery and malicious intentions of the US are laid bare in this book, and serve to heighten and illuminate the goodwill and precious help that these three men gave to Britain. Had Britain capitulated to Germany as the French had done, with no place in Europe to base an opposition to the Nazis, America would have been in no position to fight them and would (with the delighted collaboration of people like Joe Kennedy, Charles Lindberg and other American heroes) have been forced to get into bed with Hitler. This book should be read by all Americans, especially Hollywood which likes to portray the Americans riding in heroically to save the day, and steals the stories of other nations' heroes with their historically incorrect portrayal of the Great Escape, the Enigma rescue etc., which were due to the British, Poles, etc.. Considering what an important figure in all this the American ambassador was (no! not THAT self-serving despicable person!) - the name of John Gilbert Winant ought to be better known. This good man was an essential element in winning the war and should be more famous. If Britain owes a debt of gratitude to anyone, it is to this man. A statue in London to John Gilbert Winant, anyone?
While I was familiar with Murrow and Harriman, I admit to having zero knowledge of who Gil Winant was. The book was worth the read just to learn about him but it taught much more than that. The author conveyed what it was like to be in London during WWII and conveyed political realities that do not appear in the "social studies" books.
The narrator was terrific. I know it sounds like a dull subject but it wasn't and the narrator truly helped it to be showcased well. I learned a great deal and just might listen to it again in the future.
Our heroes are not always heroic. This may not be news, but seems to be the theme of this particular history. Purportedly a tale of three Americans who lived in London during the Battle of Britain and through the war, Citizens of London is really a larger story of how Britain came to find herself overshadowed by the ally she had so ardently courted. Few of the participants are treated kindly. Among the three primary figures, one came from poverty and the others from money.
Averell Harriman was the wealthiest. The son of railroad baron E. H. Harriman, he is characterized as having spent his early years growing his fortune and the war years using it to gain access to powerful people. It is difficult to believe that someone as shallow as the Harriman depicted here could grow into the statesman who later served with such distinction.
Born into a prosperous family, John G. Winant spent his entire life in public service. Harriman spent WW I building ships; Winant served as a fighter pilot. The consummate progressive, Winant left the Republican party to serve Roosevelt in 1935. While serving as Ambassador to England from 1941 to 1946, he eschewed the perquisites of his position and shared the hardships of the English people during the Battle of Britain. The author bestows no unkind word on Mr. Winant.
Edward R. Murrow fares almost as well, though his journalistic objectivity is often impugned and his affair with Pamela Churchill receives inordinate attention.
Churchill and Roosevelt are characterized as egotists more interested in dominating the conversation than in communicating. Churchill comes off a bit more positively, if only because he swallowed his pride to court Roosevelt - the leader of the only country capable of saving England from the Nazis. United States reluctance to enter the war is examined from the British perspective of desperately needing support, rather than from the American perspective of not wishing to enter yet another conflict arising from historical rivalries of which it was not a party. Roosevelt seems to be criticized both for wanting to meddle in European affairs (as in discussions of Belgian ethnic divisions) and not wanting to meddle (as in delaying discussions about Germany’s post-war future). Eisenhower is presented as a hayseed whose only positive virtue is his insistence on a unified command structure within the Allied Forces. Although the author eventually acknowledges the development of warm feelings between the British and the Americans who were staged there prior to Normandy, much more time is spent describing their efforts to keep apart from the local population and their relatively higher standard of living. Americans back home are also criticized for enjoying a higher standard of living than the populations of war-torn Europe.
This is an interesting book which reminds us that the people who lead us are, like the rest of us, neither whole heroic nor wholly ignoble. It also reminds us that important decisions are often made with incomplete information by people who are under considerable stress. For those who enjoy biography, Citizens of London is an interesting read. For those seeking a deeper understanding of history, I would recommend skepticism.