Citizens of London
The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour
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In her latest book, Lynne Olson, author of the highly acclaimed Troublesome Young Men, focuses once again on Britain in World War II, this time from an American perspective. Citizens of London is the engrossing behind-the-scenes story of how the United States and Britain forged their crucial wartime alliance, as seen from the viewpoint of three key American players in London. Drawing from a wide variety of primary sources, Olson depicts the personal journeys of these men, who, determined to save Britain from Hitler, helped convince a cautious Franklin Roosevelt and reluctant American public to back the British at a critical time.
The three – Edward R. Murrow, the handsome, chain-smoking head of CBS News in Europe; Averell Harriman, the hard-driving millionaire who ran FDR’s Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain – formed close ties with Winston Churchill and were drawn into Churchill’s official and family circles. So intense were their relationships with the Churchills that all of them were involved romantically 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.
Citizens of London, however, is more than the deeply human story of these three Americans and the world leaders they aided and influenced. It’s a compelling account of the transformative power of personal diplomacy. Above all, it’s a rich, panoramic tale of two cities: Washington, D.C., a lazy Southern town slowly growing into a hub of international power, and London, a staid, class-conscious capital transformed by war into a vibrant cosmopolitan metropolis, humming with energy, romance, excitement, and danger. To a number of Americans who spent time in wartime London and the rest of Britain, the country seemed like a kind of Brigadoon — a magical place where courage, resolution, sacrifice, and sense of unity and common purposed triumphed, if only for a few short years.
“Citizens of London is a great read about a small band of Americans and their courageous role in helping Britain through the darkest days of early World War II. I thought I knew a lot about that dangerous period but Lynne Olson has taught me so much more.”
“A stirring portrait of brave England in its finest hour. At its exciting center are the Americans who became England’s true friends as it fought for survival against Hitler’s Luftwaffe. Here is Edward R. Murrow reporting on the Blitz as the bombs dropped and city burned about him. You’ll meet the young, gutsy American pilots of the Eagle Squadron who broke their country’s laws to serve with the RAF. Then, nearest to London’s heart, you’ll discover the noble U.S. Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, who brought to fighting England all the fineness and generosity his country could spare and more. Lynne Olson has produced a deeply inspiring chronicle of the special relationship when it mattered most. She’s turned out a truly grand companion to Jon Meacham’s majestic Franklin and Winston.”
–Chris Matthews, Anchor, MSNBC’s Hardball
“If you don’t think there’s any more to learn about the power struggles, rivalries and dramas– both personal and political–about the US-British alliance in the World War II years, this book will change your mind–and keep you turning the pages as well.”
–Jeff Greenfield, Senior Political Correspondent, CBS News
“A triumph of research and storytelling…history on an intimate level.”
–Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein
“In this engaging and original book, Lynne Olson tells the story of the Americans who did the New World credit by giving their all to help Churchill’s Britain hold on against Hitler. Rich in anecdote and analysis, this is a terrific work of history.”
–Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the
“This is history at its most personal and compelling, a group portrait of three fascinating individuals—Winant, Harriman, and Murrow—whose lives intersected at a pivotal moment in the 20th century, when the fates of America and Britain were interlocked. The result is what the English call ‘a rollicking read.’”
–Strobe Talbott, president of Brookings Institution and author of The Great Experiment: Ancient Empires, Modern States, and the Search for a Global Nation
“It doesn’t seem possible that support for Britain against the Nazis was so unpopular in America before December of 1941. In Citizens of London, Lynne Olson tells the stories of Britain’s few American champions–men who ended up on the right side of history. Her book brings alive this crucial time of our country’s recent past, and shows us how much difference can be made by a few leaders.”
–Bob Edwards, radio commentator and author of Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism
“Brilliantly bursting with beautiful prose, Olson…captures the essence of the public and private lives of those who faced death, touched the precipice, hung on by their eyelids, and saved the free world from destruction by the forces of evil.”
–Bill Gardner, New Hampshire Secretary of State
Published by Random House
hardcover / 496 pages