Citizens of London
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 29 Aug 2011
Full Title: Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour
London was an interesting place during the war. Itself under threat, it nevertheless became the capital for various governments-in-exile, supplemented by leaders of faraway Allied nations. In Citizens of London author Lynne Olson focused on the Americans in London during this time, who, while on the job, carefully balanced Anglo-American friendship on one hand and their own national interests on the other. Off duty, the social environment brought out different sides of the generals and politicians, revealing a wholly different side of the cast of characters (it was quite shocking to hear of all the extramarital affairs especially involving family members of some of the most prominent figures!).
Olson placed most of her attention on the major players such as John Winant, Averell Harriman, and Edward Murrow, analyzing their professional and personal relationships with British leaders. As much of the war time Anglo-American relationship was defined by the dynamics between these men as that between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, I really appreciated the rich material provided by the author. Meanwhile, I also enjoyed the addition of side characters such as Tommy Hitchcock and Dick Winters; while they played a trivial role in terms of the main focus on this book, they nevertheless added a different dimension to the author's analysis. Finally, broadening the scope slightly, Olson also glanced briefly on off-topic items such as BBC's evolution into a trusted source of news, Americans bringing race tension to Britain, and others.
I had reviewed this title in its audio book format, read by Arthur Morey. His voice, for whatever reason, took me a few tracks to get used to, but nevertheless he did a fine job.
I found Olson's Citizens of London to be well researched and well written; I would recommend this to fellow WW2 enthusiasts, particularly those with interest in the international political arena during this period.
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