Book of the Week #16

Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson (NY: Random House, 2010)

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.
John Gilbert Winant was a graduate of St. Paul's School and later taught there. He served a brief term in the NH House of Representatives. In 1920 he was elected to the NH Senate. In 1924 he won election as Governor and served three terms before FDR nominated him as the 1st American representative to the International Labor Organization in Geneva.

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