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)
If we are together nothing is impossible - those words from Winston Churchill sum up the war effort and are one of the choice quotes used to introduce this book. This extraordinarily well researched history traces the lives of three men but goes much further by exploring the intricacies of the relationships between the governments of England, United States and Russia. It explores the resistance of the American public to entering the war, the ruthlessness of FDR toward the British prior to the war with Lend/Lease, and the sheer desperation and aloneness the British felt. The three men identified, John Gilbert Winant (former governor of NH), Averell Harriman, and Edward Murrow (newsman) stayed in London throughout London's darkest times and seemed to the British people like the only Americans who understood their plight. They petitioned FDR for greater understanding for the British cause. Britain was the last country standing against Hitler and yet assistance was just not coming from the United States. This book is in 3 audio parts with a total of 17 hours of listening. If the author started out to write about the 3 men (Winant, Harriman, Murrow), she ended up writing an excellent history of the war from the perspective of the British and American relationship, including relationships between Churchil, FDR and Stalin, meetings in Tehran and Yalta. Plenty of detail about Eisenhower. While I believe I can detect the author's political persuasion I don't believe it interfered with the book to a great extent, with the possible exception of the introduction. Excellent narration.
Outstanding, well written and well read. I had thought that having read Churchhill and numerous FDR books that I understood the wartime alliance. I was wrong. This book opened my eyes about the heros that we don't read about and about those who have taken credit but do not deserve it. Our missunderstandings of British contributions to winning the war stand out in particular. Anglophobes beware.
I live full-time in a motorhome, traveling west of the Rockies.
This is a well-written and beautifully-read audiobook!. Most of the main American characters are well-known, but the most fascinating and riveting, Gilbert Winant, was completely unknown to me. I've read a lot of WWII history from American historians, as well as 2 Churchill biographies. Nevertheless, I found that this description of American efforts in WWII London contained a great deal of information that was completely new to me, and insights on Americans who famously lived and worked in London during the war that I'd never encountered before. A wonderful, smoothly-written work of history, and Arthur Morey's narration is uniformly excellent. Highest recommendation.
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.
We hear so much about Roosevelt and Churchill, D-Day and Iwo Jima, but little about the people who were making things work and communicating. This was a delightful book that filled in some gaps I had. Well read. I'm so glad I tried it!
I enjoyed this book and I appreciate more the internal conflict a journalist can feel in trying to be objective when the passion of the time leaves little doubt as to what the right thing to do is. I appreciated more the British contributions to the war and while I can't ever really admire Eisenhower as the author does, I do understand better how he became president. The live as though you are dying culture, with easy sex amoung those that held fast and made a stand during the hardest of times was a surprise though on reflection it seems a natural socialogical consequence.
The narration was monotone, a lost opportunity to help the author give voice to the story, the narrator gave a weak performance. I give it only four stars because at times I found the story jumping about and hard in spots to follow a problem exaggerated by poor narration.
A different view of a war and well worth the download and a little patience.
Olson's writing easily rivals Manchester or Ambrose. If you are a history buff, you will enjoy this book. So many interesting details! So many unsung heroes and so many others who took the credit. Morey does a stellar job narrating too.
I could stop listening!
Originally the length of this book was daunting but after 17 hours, I found myself wanting more. This book brings these historical figures to life and gives a sense of what London was like through the war years. I really connected with the characters and its amazing what these men did, stood for, and how easily it all could have been different. While I have been a fan of Edward R Murrow for a while, this gave a new perspective and introduced me to equally intriguing figures of history, often overlooked.
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.
Audible has changed my life! Dry , itchy eyes were destroying one of my greatest pleasures - reading. Now I am experiencing books again!
Thank you Audible for offering this title in one of your sales. Otherwise, I would almost certainly not have discovered a really unique view of WWII. As that time recedes into history, we tend to have a rosy view of the "perfect" and inevitable American/British alliance. Of course the story is really more complicated, more politically and economically nuanced, and much more interesting than that. Seeing the early war years through the eyes of these three American citizens in London gives a whole new perspective as well as a chance to introduce us to them and to lots of other fascinating characters of that time and place. I thought I knew something about Murrow and Harriman; turns out I didn't know much. And Winant I had never heard of. How glad I am to have met him. What do you want from a good history? Fascinating people and the certainty that you will never look at that period in quite the same way again. This book has all that. I found the narrator to be perfect. Every word was clear and he seemed to be really engaged in the reading of it. I gladly followed him through this remarkable listen. I recommend it for all those who are at all interested in the history of WWII, in the rising influence of the media, and in the gray areas of human interaction in times of stress.
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