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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking account of how Britain became the base of operations for the exiled leaders of Europe in their desperate struggle to reclaim their continent from Hitler, from the New York Times best-selling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days.

When the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled over continental Europe in the early days of World War II, the city of London became a refuge for the governments and armed forces of six occupied nations who escaped there to continue the fight. So, too, did General Charles de Gaulle, the self-appointed representative of free France.

As the only European democracy still holding out against Hitler, Britain became known to occupied countries as "Last Hope Island". Getting there, one young emigré declared, was "like getting to heaven".

In this epic, character-driven narrative, acclaimed historian Lynne Olson takes us back to those perilous days when the British and their European guests joined forces to combat the mightiest military force in history. Here we meet the courageous King Haakon of Norway, whose distinctive "H7" monogram became a symbol of his country's resistance to Nazi rule, and his fiery Dutch counterpart, Queen Wilhelmina, whose antifascist radio broadcasts rallied the spirits of her defeated people. Here, too, is the Earl of Suffolk, a swashbuckling British aristocrat whose rescue of two nuclear physicists from France helped make the Manhattan Project possible.

Last Hope Island also recounts some of the Europeans' heretofore unsung exploits that helped tilt the balance against the Axis: the crucial efforts of Polish pilots during the Battle of Britain; the vital role played by French and Polish code breakers in cracking the Germans' reputedly indecipherable Enigma code; and the flood of top-secret intelligence about German operations - gathered by spies throughout occupied Europe - that helped ensure the success of the 1944 Allied invasion.

A fascinating companion to Citizens of London, Olson's best-selling chronicle of the Anglo-American alliance, Last Hope Island recalls with vivid humanity that brief moment in time when the peoples of Europe stood together in their effort to roll back the tide of conquest and restore order to a broken continent.

©2017 Lynne Olson (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Lynne Olson is a master storyteller, and she brings her great gifts to this riveting narrative of the resistance to Hitler's war machine. You will be thrilled and moved - and enraged, saddened, and shocked - by the courage and steadfastness, human waste and stupidity, carelessness and nobility, of an epic struggle. Last Hope Island is a smashing good tale." (Evan Thomas, New York Times best-selling author of Being Nixon)
"In a series of compelling books in recent years, Lynne Olson has established herself as an authoritative and entertaining chronicler of perhaps the largest single event in human history - the Second World War. Now comes Last Hope Island, a powerful and surprising account of how figures from Nazi-occupied Europe found Great Britain an essential shield and sword in the struggle against Hitler. This is a wonderful work of history, told in Olson's trademark style." (Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion)
"You wouldn't think that there would still be untold tales about World War II, but Lynne Olson, a master of that period of history, has found some. Not only does she narrate them with her usual verve, but her book reminds us how much we unthinkingly assume that it was the United States and Britain alone who defeated the Nazis in Western Europe. Last Hope Island is a valuable, and immensely readable, corrective." (Adam Hochschild, New York Times best-selling author of King Leopold's Ghost)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Interesting but...

Overall I liked the book a lot. But the SOE sections on Holland and France came straight out of “between silk and cyanide” by Leo marks

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Riveting, and informative even for students of history

Although I knew pieces of this story of exile governments and refugee soldiers in wartime Britain, much of this book was a revelation. Even familiar narratives are told from a different perspective. The text holds your attention like a good novel would. The narrator does a very good job, but doesn’t attempt accents or impersonations as some others do. For anyone who is interested in the European theater of WWII, especially espionage and resistance, this book is a must-read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not What I Expected--More What I Needed to Know

I have long been a WWII history buff, since the war formed the basis of my very earliest years growing up in the U.S. I have long read of the gallant wartime exploits of Britain's MI5, MI6, MI9, SOE, the American OSS, and the heroic Resistance of Occupied Europe. They are here, but sadly more can now be told of the vicious political backbiting that enabled all too much scum to rise to the top, wasted numberless gallant lives, and fostered the careers of the malicious and feckless. Do not read this if you wish your illusions to be preserved!

The story is well and interestingly, if somewhat haphazardly, related. A remarkable leitmotiv is how the various European governments in exile in London formed the basis of the post-war European unity movement, and how the enmity of De Gaulle worked against Britain's full integration into the European Union, even unto Brexit.

This is one of those special books that encourages me to make better sense of what I thought I knew of the period I have lived through

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Moving account of the War in Europe

This is a moving account of World War II in Europe, focusing on larger than life personages who used Britain as a base during the war.

I learned about the role and sacrifices of resistance fighters, Polish and Czech airmen, the Norwegian navy, and many others.

Well worth reading (or listening!)

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Outstanding

This is one of the best books on World War II I have read in the last 50 years of reading and studying military history! It tells about a little covered and often unflattering aspect of the allied effort against Germany in that great conflict. It also benefits from knowledge gained after the fall of the iron curtain.

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Britain and Their Saviors

What did you love best about Last Hope Island?

I was amazed by the courage of all who fought the Third Reich!

What did you like best about this story?

This was a true account of the exiled governments that aided Britain during "those darkest hours."

Which scene was your favorite?

I had no idea the Polish and Czech pilots actyually helped win the Batte of Britain

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

There were so many brave people in this book... but the ending tribute to the children in Holland who still care for the graves of the dead soldiers and airman was moving.

Any additional comments?

Anyone who is familiar with WWW II history should listen/read this book. I was struck by how ordinary people were so unselfish and brave. However I was also struck by Chruchill and Roosevelt's mastery of propaganda... I think it was a surprise that little Britain really did not stand alone!

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Great History of "Governments in Exile" in London

What did you love best about Last Hope Island?

A good balance of the "big picture" and the individual acts of heroism of the refugees who continued to fight Hitler even after their countries were defeated by the Nazis.

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Excellent book

We need more books like this one. One of the few books that recognizes the Polish, Czech and other occupied nations contributions to fighting the Nazis during World War Two. Today, very few people know that the Polish forces have been the 4th largest Allied army in Europe.

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Pulling back the curtain

Olson pulls back the curtain shielding allied relations with the conquered nations of Europe. The underground, SOE and other actors are exposed for the worst and sometimes for the better. The betrayal of Poland (twice) and Czechoslovakia is heartbreaking while the heroics of their soldiers and pilots is inspiring.

This is an unvarnished look at a side of WWII that has been misrepresented at best and ignored at worst. Well worth the time.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Always great books

Lynne Olson cannot write anything but a wonderful book! This is now my sixth book that I had the pleasure to read or hear. Somehow each one seems even better.