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Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour | [Lynne Olson]

Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour

Here is the behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant. Drawing from a variety of primary sources, Olson skillfully depicts the dramatic personal journeys of these men who, determined to save Britain from Hitler, helped convince a cautious Franklin Roosevelt and a reluctant American public to support the British at a critical time.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Listeners of Citizens of London are guided by the strong, steady voice of Arthur Morey as he details the tenacity of three Americans, who, prior to 1941, implored the United States to come to Britain’s aid in holding off German encroachment. Lynne Olson’s book reveals how the lives of broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, businessman Averell Harriman, and politician John Gilbert “Gil” Winant were woven together by their unabashed love for the English people and their respect for Britain. Even if you thought you knew just about everything there is to know about the Second World War, you’ll be enthralled to learn how closely the lives of Murrow, Harriman, and Winant intertwined through their personal connections to President Franklin Roosevelt and English Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Prior to America’s entrance into the war, Edward R. Murrow, in his CBS radio broadcasts from London, detailed the human cost of nightly German bombing blitzes of the city. U.S. Ambassador “Gil” Winant, anxious to dispel the vocal anti-British sentiment of his diplomatic predecessor, Joseph P. Kennedy, walked the debris-strewn streets asking shaken and dazed London citizens how he could be of help. When Averell Harriman arrived on the scene to control the distribution of Lend-Lease Act goods, his jovial camaraderie with Churchill served as ballast to the ever-shifting diplomatic signals FDR sent Churchill in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor. Murrow, Winant, and Harriman all became unofficial confidants to both Churchill and FDR. Morey’s classic narrator’s voice moves easily from the historical wartime details of negotiations and battles to descriptions of the toll the years in London took on the personal lives of Murrow, Winant, and Harriman. It was not all grim days and nightly shattered nerves, since at one time or another during the war years all three married gentlemen were romantically involved with Churchill women, which more tightly braided together the men’s lives.

Morey’s subtle changes in tone seamlessly blend the fatalistic hedonism of wartime London with the political gamesmanship that marked the relationships between Churchill and FDR and between English and American military leaders. Once countries banded together to become the Allies against the Germans, friction between FDR, Churchill, and military and diplomatic leaders was a constant. Morey’s even delivery expresses the gravitas of Olson’s writing as military missteps and diplomatic misunderstandings marked the Allied collaboration.

The lives of Edward R. Murrow, John “Gil” Winant, and Averell Harriman were so defined by their wartime experiences that the end of the war left all three searching for work that would be as meaningful to their lives. Listeners will appreciate Morey’s deliberate yet sympathetic style as he gives voice to how dramatically life after WWII especially affected Winant and Murrow. The material in Citizens of London, and Morey’s even narration, keeps listeners engaged and further informed about WWII and how repercussions of that event continue to affect our world today. —Carole Chouinard

Publisher's Summary

In Citizens of London, Lynne Olson has written a work of World War II history even more relevant and revealing than her acclaimed Troublesome Young Men.

Here is the behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant. Drawing from a variety of primary sources, Olson skillfully depicts the dramatic personal journeys of these men who, determined to save Britain from Hitler, helped convince a cautious Franklin Roosevelt and a reluctant American public to support the British at a critical time. The three---Murrow, the handsome, chain-smoking head of CBS News in Europe; Harriman, the hard-driving millionaire who ran FDR's Lend-Lease program in London; and Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain---formed close ties with Winston Churchill and were drawn into Churchill's official and personal circles. So intense were their relationships with the Churchills that they all became romantically involved with members of the prime minister's family: Harriman and Murrow with Churchill's daughter-in-law, Pamela, and Winant with his favorite daughter, Sarah.

Others were honorary "citizens of London" as well, including the gregarious, fiercely ambitious Dwight D. Eisenhower, an obscure general who, as the first commander of American forces in Britain, was determined to do everything in his power to make the alliance a success, and Tommy Hitchcock, a world-famous polo player and World War I fighter pilot who helped save the Allies' bombing campaign against Germany. Citizens of London, however, is more than just the story of these Americans and the world leaders they aided and influenced.

©2010 Lynne Olson (P)2010 Tantor

What the Critics Say

"Ingenious history.... Olson's absorbing narrative does [Winant, Murrow, and Harriman] justice." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    M. I. Wolfson Cape Town 09-03-12
    M. I. Wolfson Cape Town 09-03-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Great for the oldies"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Citizens of London to be better than the print version?

    I think the audio was great but the print edition , I imagine would have been equally good


    What did you like best about this story?

    It evoked the atmosphere of wartime London and England generally. My only crtisism is that it denigrated the vision and esteem of Winston Churchill, he appeared as a much weaker character than I believe he actually was. Churchill has elsewhere been describes as the greatest Englishman ever; this does not come accross. Nevertheless the descriptions of London and it's people is an accurate evokation of those wartime years.The various characters come across as being very human with there strengths and weaknesses. I had not known about all the sexual intrigues and found this side of their humanity very intiguing


    Which scene was your favorite?

    none in particular


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Yes! it often brought tears to my eyes, though there was not much to laugh about


    Any additional comments?

    Well worth getting esspecially nostalgic for older folk

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Keith D. Allan Phila. Pa USA 07-29-12
    Keith D. Allan Phila. Pa USA 07-29-12 Member Since 2010

    Kdallan1

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    "The very best tale of WWII London"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes.This book is for the history buff and the general reader.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The interweaving of the three main characters,with the prime movers of WWII British war efforts.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    If you had the chance, would you have wanted to be A Citizen of London during the War.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Donald V. Beck California 07-18-12
    Donald V. Beck California 07-18-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Makes me not so proud of being an American"
    What did you love best about Citizens of London?

    This book opened my eyes to real life characters in one of the most fascinating periods of world history. Who were Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, Pamela Churchill, Harry Hopkins, Tommy Hitchcock... and most of all: who the heck was John Gilbert Winant? This tells the not-so-flattering story of America and Americans in the crucial 1939 to 1942 timeframe in the last Western bastion of Europe: Great Britain. If you love WWII history, or modern history at all, this is a MUST read.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    John Gilbert Winant, our American ambassador to Great Britain from 1941 to 1946, was my absolute favorite. An idealist, a down to earth lover of people, a man who tried his best to get us to realize that we HAD to back Britain in those dark years. Another great was Tommy Hitchcock, a socialite polo star who was the man who got the P51 off the ground to defend our bombers all the way into Germany and stop the horrific loses we were experiencing due to Arnold's and Spaatz's belief that we didn't need fighter escorts.


    Which character – as performed by Arthur Morey – was your favorite?

    The reader, Arthur Morey, did an excellent job of reading, or more closely: reporting, this book. All of the characters in this fascinating, angering book were reported with the appropriate exposition that this work of non-fiction needed.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    My anger at FDR for not seeing what was happening in Europe and how it affected not just the USA but the entire world. How he denigrated Winston Churchill in front of our beloved ally, Joseph Stalin. My view of FDR is forever changed... not for the good.


    Any additional comments?

    As a youth growing up in postwar America, I always thought the US won the war in Europe as well as the Pacific. Being a bit hard on America, this book changed my mind about that. Yes, we were the final, strong push in the west that stopped the Nazis, but almost by accident. Eisenhower comes off quite well, but most of the rest of the high ranking American military leadership does not.

    It has added to my desire to go to England before I die. I want to see the physical place that this extraordinary collection of persons inhabited.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Philadelphia, PA, United States 06-28-12
    Scott Philadelphia, PA, United States 06-28-12 Member Since 2009

    Scott P

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    "A Lesson to be Learned Here..."
    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Churchill. What a fascinating man.


    Any additional comments?

    We almost waiting too long and practically made a proud people beg. We Americans are fond of pointing out that we saved the world. While that is an accurate statement, I think we tend to discount the fact that the English courageously fought the good fight all but alone. The French proved that a proficient in just one thing in war; surrendering, and FDR, the political creature that was, stalled while waiting for the changing tide of public opinion.

    Brave, great men, like Churchill and Winant, implored American leaders to take up arms against the evil that was Germany. Hitler was able to amass power and arms while naive people spoke of appeasement (in Eurpoe) and isolationism (in America), neither worked then and neither work now (despite what naive people say today about not judging harshly on what "hand full" do).

    The book did drag at times but it tells an important story of unsung heroes in a fairly entertaining way. It does not make my top 10 in the history category, but it is worth the read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    SJS 05-10-12
    SJS 05-10-12 Member Since 2013
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    "Raced through it"

    I could not stop listening to this book. I have a keen interest in WW 2 and the British home front and I learned so much. It was thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. 05-09-12
    S. 05-09-12 Member Since 2007
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    "Wonderful book ~"

    Even with the slightest interest in this time in history, you will find this book fantastic. Wonderful book ~ !

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stacy 03-09-12
    Stacy 03-09-12
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    "WWII in a different light"
    Where does Citizens of London rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    I would say this is one of the better audiobooks I've heard. The narrator did a good job and I appreciate not changing tone or accent with so many different characters involved.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Citizens of London?

    I was really struck by the long, winding story of George Wynant - the U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. during WWII. He is someone I would really respect and like. What a hard job he had during that time. His own journey from pre-war to post-war is thrilling and heart breaking.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Arthur Morey?

    Yes.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    No - I just liked seeing a whole new all encompassing view of the events before, during and after World War II. I think overall it increased my understanding of the war.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Exeter, RI, United States 02-13-12
    Mark Exeter, RI, United States 02-13-12 Member Since 2005
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    "Fascinating"
    What made the experience of listening to Citizens of London the most enjoyable?

    A lot of historical data that you won't find in the history books. The role of these Gentlemen and the role of the P51 (which the USA was initially reluctant to use) really had and impact on the war and the shape of the world today. I enjoyed this book thoroughly!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chet Prairie Village, KS, United States 01-03-12
    Chet Prairie Village, KS, United States 01-03-12 Member Since 2011

    Grateful

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    "WW II - a British view - cutting & insightful"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Citizens of London to be better than the print version?

    Audio version are superior for a survey approach to a subject. It is not, however, possible to continuously stay tuned in for things such things as dates and names - print is better for this. But to have the freedom to incorporate exercise into the same time slot is a a great gift. It would be my suggestion as a business model that the buyer have the option for another modest fee ($1 or +$2) to also have a downloadable version for reference - especially for non-fiction.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Lynne Olson? Why or why not?

    Lynne Olson sees the world through the eyes of a committed Liberal (in the current political, not in the classical sense). This of course colors the work. I do not share this, none the less it is good to know what the heart of an opposing view is. I see the world more like Churchill than the authors favorite- John Gilbert Wynant. I would not seek out nor count out any other work by Olson.


    What does Arthur Morey bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    His sense of timing is quite good. His rhythms seem in sink with the intent of the author.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    America's strengths and weaknesses as seen by our greatest ally.


    Any additional comments?

    In spite of the authors Liberal political bent there is great revelation about the follies of the FDR administration.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Arnir Texas 10-18-11
    Arnir Texas 10-18-11 Member Since 2011

    explorer

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    "Good but loses focus and then gets judgemental"

    This is an informative book on many big name (and some lesser name) Americans who were in London for WWII. As the author gets into the later war years, the story understandbly meanders more. At times the book is more gossip column than history and I really did not need to know all that much about the sexual activities of some of the people (especially Churchill women) in the book. To add insult to injury, the sex lists were boring so claiming "spice" doesn't really help on that subject. The author does a very good job of displaying the emotional passions of men like Murrow.

    Olson also paints a vivid picture of the suffering of Londoners in general and how the food rationing affected the people in stark contrast to the high living of the wealthy in black market establishments or people in the United States. At times it appears that the author is outraged that the American people did not suffer as much as their British compatriots. Did Americans have it easy compared to the British? Of course, Would the outlawing of girdle production in the U.S. have put an ounce more meat, butter or cheese on the plate of a Briton? No. Having listened to tales from my family in Canada during WWII, sacrfices were made for Britain during the war. Not as much as the Britons themselves, but the deprivations of wartime also illustrate just how much many Britons were living on the shoulders of the people of the Empire and Commonwealth. The book occasionally uses the incorrect term that "England fought alone." This author doesn't fall into that trap often, but England always had Scotland and Wales plus the Commonwealth and the Empire.

    One last issue was that near the end of the book the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is called the North AMERICAN Treaty Organization. I don't know if that was in the book or an error by the narrator. The author pointed out what a huge step this was for the United States so the name should be correct. Not a huge deal, but it stood out to me.

    Olson also gives a useful re-examination of the Churchill/Roosevelt relationship. Fans of FDR will not like everything that is said but that is history.

    Overall I recommend this book for some great stories and new insights. Get ready for a long list of attempted begating however. Plus, keep in mind that this book appears at least to be biased in favor of the Anglophiles.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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