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Publisher's Summary

On May 7, 1940, the House of Commons began perhaps the most crucial debate in British parliamentary history. On its outcome hung the future of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's government and also of Britain - indeed, perhaps, the world. Troublesome Young Men is Lynne Olson's fascinating account of how a small group of rebellious Tory MPs defied the Chamberlain government's defeatist policies that aimed to appease Europe's tyrants and eventually forced the prime minister's resignation.

Some historians dismiss the "phony war" that preceded this turning point as a time of waiting and inaction, but Olson makes no such mistake, and describes in dramatic detail the public unrest that spread through Britain then, as people realized how poorly prepared the nation was to confront Hitler, how their basic civil liberties were being jeopardized, and also that there were intrepid politicians willing to risk political suicide to spearhead the opposition to Chamberlain - Harold Macmillan, Robert Boothby, Leo Amery, Ronald Cartland, and Lord Robert Cranborne among them. The political and personal dramas that played out in Parliament and in the nation as Britain faced the threat of fascism virtually on its own are extraordinary - and, in Olson's hands, downright inspiring.

©2007 Lynne Olson (P)2018 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A well-written, fast-paced book that reads like a political thriller...Troublesome Young Men is an extraordinary tale of political courage in perilous times - and a wonderfully written book." (Terry Hartle, Christian Science Monitor)

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 12-29-18

Impressive

This book tells the familiar story of the countdown to 1939. Olson has chosen to tell the story using interconnected biographies of Harold Macmillan, Anthony Eden, Duff Cooper, Bob Boothby, Bobbety Cranbourne, Ronald Cortland, Harold Nicolson and Leo Amery. Each of these had their own political ambitions and rarely agreed with one another. But from 1937 onwards, they worked together to oppose the policies of appeasement, depose Chamberlain as Prime Minister and install Winston Churchill in his place.

The book is well written and researched. The author does a good job in bringing to life the political milieu. Olson also tosses in the extraordinary thirty-year affair between Dorothy Macmillan and Boothby, and its effect on Harold Macmillan. Olson’s description of each of the people involved is detailed, as is her description of Churchill with all his strength and weakness. The book is easy to read and understand. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

The book is fourteen hours and forty-two minutes. The book was first published in 2007. Dennis Kleinman does a good job narrating the book. Kleinman is a British voice actor. In 2016 he was a Voice Arts nominee for Best Narrator for Biography.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • IRP
  • Bedminster New Jersey
  • 11-30-18

Spectacular Narrative History Book

This is the first book by Lynne Olson that I have had the opportunity to read/listen to. I was very pleased when Audible finally made this book is available. The book is an extremely good book of narrative history that would have made Barbara Tuchman proud (she being the author of the Guns of August which is arguably the greatest narrative history book ever written). The story focuses on the group of Tory Members of Parliament who had the courage and strength to bring down the Neville Chamberlain government in May 1940. Historically, WInston Churchill has been the MP who has received the lion's share of the credit for turning the British government from an appeaser movement that gave away Europe to Adolph Hitler to a war footing government that confronted him head on. During the book we are introduced to the MP's who truly paved the way for Churchill and Olson does a fabulous job of painting their character portraits- from Anthony Eden (who has the opportunity to lead the revolt and become Prime Minister but who lacked the courage to take on Chamberlain) to Richard Law, Robert Boothby, Harold McMillan, Harold Nicholson, Duff Cooper Leo Amery (who had the great speech quoting Oliver Cromwell that brought the government down) to Lord Salisbury, and tragically the Duchess of Atholl who as a female Tory member of Parliament and who after reading Mein Kempf bravely confronted the Tory Hierarchy and lost her seat in Parliament. Perhaps the most tragic but courageous figure in the book is Ronald Cartland, who as junior Tory MP had the courage to stand up and condemn Chamberlain (breaking with tradition for a Member of Parliament) and then volunteered to fight in France only to be killed while leading his men in a rearguard action while the British Army retreated to Dunkirk. Olson does an excellent job of providing us with a detailed portrait of each of these personages and by the time I finished reading the book I appreciated how much Churchill owed to these heroes. The narration by Dennis Kleinman was very good and the wait to hear this book was well worth it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to understand more about the rise of Churchill and the movement to move Britain closer to war.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Promising, but Doesn't Measure Up

This is a promising story; it has as its climax perhaps the most dramatic Parliamentary occasion of the 20th Century (namely the Norway Debate). However, the execution fails to measure up. There are numerous instances of glaring errors that were missed in copy editing ("submachine" for "submarine;" "dictator" for "director;" etc.) as well as some factual errors (some glaring, some more minor). That said, there is a wealth of detail included in the narrative that is not easy to find in another standalone work. The pacing through the first two-thirds of the book is good, although the final third feels rushed.

The performance overall is good; however, the narrator struggles with pronunciations of many German words, which is sometimes rather problematic in a work that discusses the run-up to and early years of World War II.

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Finally, this WW2 cornerstone book is on audible!

The giants of the British government in the 1920-1950's period are presented here in masterfully drawn bios. This is a terrific springboard to Olson's fine "Citizens of London" and "Last Hope Island". Each book carries the reader strongly forward into WW2 in page-turner fashion. This densely written volume sets the stage in pre-war England focusing on a much more entrenched appeasement government than you'd think -- complete with dirty tricks and press intimidation. Foundational reading for students of WW2 history.

The book has been out for some time; and, it's a relief to finally find it on Audible with an excellent narrator. Dennis Kleinman is a fine choice for this reading. London flavor comes through as main characters navigate the city and Parliament. There's a nod to some of the earliest women to be admitted as MP's as well featuring an especially good profile written about the Dutchess of Atholl. These important British figures are written with heart and thoughtful perspective.

Sources and notes are carefully presented.
(Note: period photos of some of the key MP's are found on the author's website.)

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One of the best

I’ve read other books by Olson, all excellent. This book was by far the best-I felt as if I was in the Parliament during their pre war deliberations. I can’t recommend this one enough!