Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest, Hour by Lynne Olson
A few months ago I was having dinner and discussing books with friends in Washington, DC. One of my friends urged me to read Citizens of London, written by Lynne Olson. I always admire writers who can take a serious, complicated subject and make it a page-turner. Olson is one of those writers. This book is so well-researched and well-written that it is a joy to read.
John Gilbert Winant, Edward R. Murrow, and Averell Harriman are three Americans who expedited the entrance of the US into helping Great Britain fight Hitler. This despite President Franklin Roosevelt's reluctance to enter the war at all. These three men understood that we had to come to the aid of Britain and stop Hitler.
Olson paints a vivid picture of life in London. The relentless air raids, the shortage of basic foods, the terror of hearing the buzzing of an incoming bomb and not knowing where it would land. But even after night after night of attacks, Londoners would still pick themselves up and start the day with their regular routine whether it would be going to work or school. Sometimes it would take hours to get to work because of streets blocked by crumbled buildings. But they wouldn't use the war as an excuse to stop being productive.
Of course, Winston Churchill plays a very big role in this book and that's always a treat for me. And there is a bit of fun gossip about the likes of Pamela Harriman and others.
This book was even more interesting as I was in London for a few days while reading this book. I would notice names of streets as places Murrow had lived or notice a plaque on a church noting the effects of a bombing attack. Touring the Churchill Museum and reviewing news clips or walking through the Churchill War Rooms noting where staff slept became more meaningful. Reading this book at the same time of my visit was more than educational. It personalized history for me.
Now I'm interested in reading another book by Olson, Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England.