Last Hope Island

Last Hope Island

Last Hope Island – Available April 2017

When my book Citizens of London was published several years ago, Amazon posted an interview with me. The interviewer mentioned the fact that most of my books have focused on Britain in the early days of World War II and asked me why I was so drawn to that country and period. The main reason, I told him, was that it was such an irresistible story — this small island nation standing up to Nazi Germany, the mightiest military force in history, at a time when no one expected it to survive. Citizens of London dealt with one aspect of that fight — Britain’s desperate effort to get the neutral United States to enter the war as its ally.

My new book, Last Hope Island, which will be published next April, is very much in the tradition of Citizens. It’s the epic story of how, in the dark days of 1940, Britain abandoned its traditional aloofness from Europe and welcomed to its shores the exiled leaders and people of the European countries conquered by Germany. This is a topic that until now has never been fully explored: how London became the safe haven for the leaders of seven Nazi-occupied nations, allowing them to set up governments in exile to continue the fight.

As Last Hope Island makes clear, the partnership between Britain and occupied Europe turned out to be vital for Britain’s survival and, indeed, for Allied victory. Without the Europeans’ help, the British might well have lost the Battle of Britain and Battle of the Atlantic and might never have conquered Germany’s Enigma code. Later in the war, the work of European spies and resistance fighters helped insure the success of D-Day and the Allies’ subsequent march across Europe — an effort that, according to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, played “a very considerable part in our final triumph.”

At the same time, as I point out in the book, Europeans received much from Britain in return. To occupied Europe, the mere fact of Britain’s continued resistance to Hitler was a source of hope, a sign that not all was lost. On the Continent, Britain became known as “Last Hope Island.”

As readers of my books know, I rely heavily on the human angle in writing history. In this book, I really hit the jackpot. Last Hope Island is an intensely human story, with a huge cast of wonderful, larger-than-life characters, ranging from kings and queens to scientists, pilots, spies, and saboteurs. Even the bit players are fascinating. They include a teenage Audrey Hepburn, who served as a courier for the Dutch resistance, and four-year-old Madlenka Korbel, the daughter of a Czech government official in London, who survived the Blitz and grew up to become U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The story of the remarkable wartime partnership between Britain and occupied Europe stands in sharp contrast to the rocky relationship between Britain and Europe today, underscored by Britain’s vote last June to leave the European Union. The irony here is that Britain actually served as the seedbed for the creation of the European Union. As the war progressed, members of the various European governments-in-exile forged tight-knit bonds with each other, both official and personal. The trauma of defeat and occupation had convinced them that their nations must band together after the war if Europe hoped to achieve any kind of future influence, strength, and security. Their cooperation in London planted the seeds for the campaign for European unification that followed the war — an extraordinary effort that helped lead to more than half a century of peace and prosperity for western Europe.

5 thoughts on “Last Hope Island

  1. Mary McNeil

    Ms. Olsen: I wrote you several months ago because I am working on a biography of Wallace Carroll, which was inspired in part by your references to him in Citizens of London. I am wondering if it is at all possible for us to meet sometime. I am based in DC but planning a trip to London to conduct further research and would appreciate your advice on sources of information there. You have my e-mail above. Congratulations on your books. I’m eagerly awaiting The Last Hope publication next Spring. Best regards, Mary McNeil

  2. Gerry Mandel

    That’s good news, Lynne. I’ve read all your previous books and, while not a Brit, I’m fascinated by the times and events of which you write so compellingly. I look forward to “Last Hope Island” next Spring. One question: Do you write about the Polish fighter pilots who escaped from Poland when Germany overran them, and joined the British in the Battle of Britain? I interviewed a Polish gentleman recently, born in Poland, now lives here in St. Louis, Missouri. He spoke of those pilots, and lent me a book to read, “A Question of Honor.” I’m sure you’re familiar with it. Anyway, I hope they get the recognition they deserve. (FYI: I am not Polish…well, maybe part Polish, part Russian; depends on which army was where in any particular year). A suggestion: St. Louis County Library has an extensive Author Reading program; major writers appear here regularly. I hope you could put us on your book tour schedule. The man to contact at the Library is Jim Bogart. I mentioned you to him the other night and he said he’d love to have you visit. Good luck with the new book.

  3. Beth Foley

    I am so delighted that you have another book coming. I will certainly buy it. Thanks so much for the notice.

  4. Lynne Olson

    Gerry,
    My website is under redesign, and it was just yesterday that I saw your wonderful message. I appreciate your kind words, and, yes, the Polish pilots will play a big role in the new book, as will the Polish cryptographers who were the first to crack Enigma and the worldwide Polish intelligence network that was responsible for most of the information given to the Allies about occupied Europe. Don’t know if I’m heading to St. Louis on my tour, but if so, I’ll have Random House get in touch with Jim Bogart. Many thanks for writing.

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