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
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
"Ingenious history.... Olson's absorbing narrative does [Winant, Murrow, and Harriman] justice." (Publishers Weekly)
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.
I think the audio was great but the print edition , I imagine would have been equally good
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
none in particular
Yes! it often brought tears to my eyes, though there was not much to laugh about
Well worth getting esspecially nostalgic for older folk
Yes.This book is for the history buff and the general reader.
The interweaving of the three main characters,with the prime movers of WWII British war efforts.
If you had the chance, would you have wanted to be A Citizen of London during the War.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Churchill. What a fascinating man.
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.
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