Morey's narration brought wartime London, its citizens, and the most moral and noble Americans who stood with them to life. Made me realize why I love the English.
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.
Semi retired CPA, Sarah's mom, corgi mom, avid traveler, political junkie, somewhere north of ATL
First of all, let me say this is a well written, illuminating account of WWII London and the major players in the British/American alliance. It is a nonstop read, and a highly educational, enjoyable one. There is much to learn about the behind the scenes action from this author. Not to be missed are the in-house diplomatic/political/military rivalries and competitions that were a constant source of frustration to individuals and the war effort. The author brings to life the war struggles by focusing on the individuals and their personality traits. The American ambassador, Mr. John Gilbert Winant, was a tremendous asset to our country. His story is one that too few Americans (including me) know and this history does much to correct that. So much has been written about Joe Kennedy's missteps while in that post, that this gentleman has been ignored. After reading this, I predict you will be searching for much more information on this man. The history of Edward R Murrow was new to me, also. I do remember him on TV when I was a young child, however, I was woefully ignorant of his time in England during the war. His stature as a famed broadcaster is more easily understood. I am on my second listening and keep making historical connections that I missed the first time. I will probably be re listening to parts of this over and over. There are liaisons of varying types and degrees that are woven into the fabric of this history. However, the most surprising are the love affairs amongst this elite group of history makers. Husbands, wives, daughters, sons........a very close knit group getting even closer. Was it the war? Lack of TV? Too many cocktail parties? Maybe it was in the English water..........If you love British and American history..........you will have a great time with this book
I haven't read the print version, so I can't comment. However, the narrator was perfect!
I've done a bit of WWII reading, but there were so many stories that I had not heard, including small anecdotes of commoners as well as world leaders. My favourite is one about then Princess Elizabeth and two American military policemen. The stories complement the depth and angle from which Olson presents the war.
We are living in a golden age for histories of the Second World War, it seems, because Lynne Olson has produced a brilliant and fascinating work which covers new ground. One might have thought that nothing new could be said about the Battle of Britain, or the FDR Churchill relationship, but Olson proves that wrong. The author tells the fascinating story of life in England during the war years through the thoughts and actions of three American agents in history: Ambassador Gil Winant, journalist Edward R. Murrow, and head of Lend-Lease program, Averell Harriman. The work is meticulously researched and the story wonderfully told. The last portion of the book does cover very familiar ground, but the bulk of the work is important history being told here for the first time in this work.
Today, many of us Americans can look back to WWII, with our isolationist past an even more distant memory than the war itself, and wonder why we were so slow to come to Britain's aid, why we were being so deliberately naive about the realities of the world and the threat posed by fascism. This book is the story of three highly influential Americans who were asking these questions in 1941 as German bombs fell around them in London. It conveys the frustration of Murrow, the head of CBS's London news bureau, the unenviable dilemmas faced by Winant, the American ambassador, and the challenges encountered by Harriman, the lend-lease coordinator; but it also details the close relationship these men formed with Churchill and his family, especially his daughters. Though two of these men were personal representatives of FDR and the other was nominally an objective news commentator form a neutral power, all three functioned more as personal aids to Sir Winston Churchill, not out of any sense of disloyalty to the United States, but rather in accordance with the dictates of their conscience. They understood that, at this point in history, the interests of the United States and those of the United Kingdom were one and provided invaluable counsel to Sir Winston to help coax along a skeptical American government. In doing so they became part of Churchill's inter circle and formed relationships with the British political, business, and military communities that would not only define the relationship between the two nations for the duration of the war, but have also defined the relationship between our two peoples for last 70 years following the war.
I learned things about what went on in London during the war years that I had never thought about.
His diction made it a great listen.
I did not realize how bad things were over there in the years after the war ended.
So glad it was written and very glad I read it. Much to learn, still, about one of the greatest, most horrific challenges that the world faced mid-century. Buy, read, learn.
Listening to this book will make you envy the Americans who made London their home during World War II. It brings to life the constant awareness of danger, the live-for-now attitude, the sense of common purpose, the adrenaline rush of being part in a great cause, and most of all the leading characters of that era. Most interesting was Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, about whom I knew next to nothing before listening to this book. He seemed to be a man who could have been a truly great American president; yet he has been a historical footnote next to Churchill, Roosevelt, and the other personalities focused on in the book -- Edward R. Murrow and Averell Harriman. Citizens of London restores Winant to his rightful place. I found the narration somewhat dull, but the content more than made up for it.