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Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour

4.19  ·  Rating Details ·  4,397 Ratings  ·  589 Reviews
The acclaimed author of Troublesome Young Men reveals the behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: 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 Lo ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published February 2nd 2010 by Random House (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Jan 03, 2016 Margie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: even those who aren't 'into' WWII books
Citizens of London, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1) I love you because by taking a look at something other than the battles and the big names, you lulled me in to reading and caring about the war. I've always avoided reading about WWII because so many of the books are about specific battles or are about one mighty man. I find them confusing, which makes me bored, which then makes me mad because I don't want to be bored by something that should be of great import. I learned more abou
Jul 04, 2011 Rosemary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not much of a student of the second World War. Perhaps because my parents lived through it, though my father did so with shrapnel scars and PTSD so bad my parents had to sleep in separate beds because in his dreams he re-fought the hand-to-hand encounters he had in Belgium and Germany. Perhaps because I saw so many World War II films (though we weren't allowed to watch European Theatre films when Daddy was around, just War in the Pacific). I grew up thinking Eisenhower was an idiot, Omar Br ...more
Sep 26, 2012 Carol rated it really liked it
What started off as a 3 star read quickly became 4 stars as I found myself drawn into this compelling history of 3 men, John Winant, Edward R. Murrow, and Averill Harriman who came to Britain's aid in their fight against Hitler and Germany during World War II. History was never my strong subject but the more I read in adulthood the more I find myself engrossed.

Lynne Olson uses primary resources to create this easy to read narrative. Being able to discuss the morals and politics of the key playe
Jun 24, 2010 Lisa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: those interested in WWII in Europe and Anglophiles
This is an excellent book about Britain and the Anglo-American alliance during World War II. Especially good are the insights into life in London during the Blitz (indiscriminate Nazi bombing of civilian targets) and the relationship between Britain and the United States before America entered the war, during the time they fought together, and immediately after the war. The book focuses on three Americans who helped save England (and, by extension, the United States) by encouraging U.S. entrance ...more
Mikey B.
Apr 28, 2013 Mikey B. rated it it was amazing
A majestic description of London during the tumultuous days of World War II. Its’ main aim is to portray the Americans who went to live in London during this dynamic period of history. The focus is on three differing personalities – the solitary and soft-spoken ambassador Gilbert Winant, the famous news broadcaster Edward Murrow, and the businessman Averell Harriman. The author provides us with vivid portrayals of each, as well as a cavalcade of native Londoners and many other of its’ foreign in ...more
Carol Ryan
Mar 12, 2013 Carol Ryan rated it it was amazing
Over dinner in a private room of the fragrant restaurant, we gathered to discuss Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Finest Hour by Lynne Olson. The eight of us sat around a long rectangular wooden table agreeing how little we had known about the topic prior to reading the book. We were all born in the 1940s or 1950s, so that war was important to our parents and grandparents. Not so much to our generation. Someone sagely suggested we each say a bit about how our paren ...more
Ronald Roseborough
Dec 12, 2009 Ronald Roseborough rated it it was amazing
This book relates the story of a number of brave, outstanding, and visionary Americans who supported and in fact championed London and all of Britain, as it's life light was threatening to be extinguished in the early years of World War II. In this day and age, it is often hard to realize the vast differences which existed between the United States, which was largely isolationist, and the British colonial power. The extent of efforts needed to be made by these Americans to bring together Britain ...more
Mar 20, 2013 Ash rated it really liked it
I was a soldier.

I was a sailor.

I was a pilot.

I was a citizen of London.

Honestly, Citizens of London probably deserves another star but I wasn't in the right headspace to give it. However, I do know a good book when I read one.

We all know how long it took the United States to become an active participant of World World II. Lynne Olson's emphasizes just how much leg shuffling and paper pushing it took. I was even to the point of Seriously America? and the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. The Brit
Jul 29, 2011 Loralee rated it it was amazing
Since urban fantasy is way more fun to read than serious nonfiction, I let Citizens of London sit on my shelf for nearly two months after making myself check it out. But once I picked it up, I could hardly put it down again. Author Lynne Olson does the difficult and ambitious job of following three Americans--reporter Ed Murrow, ambassador John Winant, and Lend-Lease representative Averell Harriman--through the war waged against London. From the way they play against each other, with Harriman co ...more
Feb 04, 2011 Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: world-war
Ostensibly a close-up look at some Americans in Britain during the war, but really much more. I could have easily done without the romantic entanglements of the three main players -- Edward R. Murrow (just as cool as you would expect), John Gilbert Winant (yes, he was just like Mr. Smith when he went to Washington), and Averell Harriman (yawn) -- with members of Churchill's family :) but in theory, it's very interesting that these transplanted Americans were so involved in that way with that par ...more
Mar 23, 2010 Ed rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed/could not put down Lynn Olson: Citizens of London, about the three key Americans in Second World War London. I have always thought that must have been the most intense time and place. The three Americans were the broadcaster Ed Murrow, the US ambassador John Winant, and the aid supremo Averill Harriman. Murrow and Winant were the two Americans most loved by the British people after FDR. Interestingly, all three had affairs at the time with Churchill’s daughters.

Anyway this Lond
Jan 28, 2013 Margery rated it really liked it
Recommended to Margery by: Margie Winn
FINALLY ... finished reading! I enjoyed this book for several reasons which doesn't help explain why it took six weeks to get through it. But non-fiction is not my first choice and so I nibbled rather than gobbled. Lynne Olson's book is a wonderful counterpart to The Postmistress (fictionalized account of the pre-war exodus across Europe of those running from Hitler.)

A second reason for liking this account is that it occured (mostly) in my lifetime and brought back memories of hearing Edward R.
Apr 15, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by: Browsing library shelves
Hmmm . . . Difficult to review and rate. Compounded because this was a road-trip audio book consumed in three days with more than a week between days one and two. Anyway, there are scads of good annecdotes and a pretty lucid narrative about the American involvement with Britain during WW II (the whole thing, not just after Pearl Harbor); the focus is 99.4 percent on the war with Germany, with only the slightest mention of the Pacific.

At the beginning, one is led to believe that the book will FO
Feb 15, 2015 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
I can’t begin to cover all the new things I learned Lynne Olsen’s highly informative history packed with unique perspectives, but following are highlights of the three main characters, Americans John Winant, Edward R. Murrow and Averill Harriman; notes on three people I found especially interesting, Pam Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower and Hap Arnold; and finally some examples of FDR’s naïve and inept foreign policy, particularly his handling of de Gaulle and Stalin and strained relationship with Ch ...more
Jul 13, 2010 Sara rated it really liked it
ARC received through the First Reads giveaway program.

This book is an account of the alliance between the Great Britain and the United States. The primary focus is on Edward R. Murrow (head of CBS in Europe), Averell Harriman (who ran the Lend-Lease program), and John Gilbert Winant (America's ambassador to Britain).

This book was a real eye-opener to me. My impression was always that it was a no-brainer that America was Great Britain's ally during WWII--weren't we always friends in the 20th cen
Jul 06, 2013 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
I am a hard sell for any non-fiction book, but this book was pressed in my hand by a friend as a "must read" so I dutifully complied. Kicking and screaming all the way.

And, I've got to admit, it wasn't easy for me. The writing and style were great, but I have so many voids in my knowledge of 20th century history that I had to really concentrate on all of the dense information provided in this book. That, of course, is my shortcoming , not that of the book.

My father was a newspaperman (now called
Oct 13, 2014 Myles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't say enough good things about this book, recommended to me by a customer of mine. The three central characters of the book, including Edward R. Murrow, John Gilbert Wynant, and Averil Harriman, were pretty much unknown to me. The stress and strain of the Anglo-American relationship in the years leading up to and including when the US entered WWII was also fairly new to me. I did not understand the weakness of the British and American intelligence in the years leading up to war and how imp ...more
Aug 28, 2016 Steve rated it really liked it
A moving, eloquent and detailed study of three Americans--broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, wealthy playboy turned diplomat Averell Harriman, and the most accomplished public servant I had never known of, US Ambassador John Gilbert Winant. Much information on high-level diplomatic and personal affairs, along with the stories of how millions of ordinary American soldiers interacted with ordinary Britons.
Nov 05, 2011 Drew rated it really liked it
A splendid, well written and fascinating read focusing principally on three Americans living in England during World War II before the US entered the war--Edward R. Murrow, Averill Harriman and the little known but truly admirable US Ambassador to England, Gilbert Conant. It depicts the time when popular opinion in the US did not favor entering the war, the grave threat posed by Nazi German, the courageous English common people during harrowing times and the difference that committed people made ...more
Jan 29, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-military, war
This is the second book by Lynne Olson that I've read and I enjoyed them both very much. She has a way of making history accessible and interesting. In this book, she covers a similar period, that of WWII and set in England for the most part. This story focuses on three Americans who worked tirelessly to bring the US into WWII in support of the beleaguered UK, who were standing on their own against Nazi Germany. The three with Gilbert Winant, US Ambassador to UK, Edward Murrow, CBS radio represe ...more
Brian Eshleman
Oct 28, 2015 Brian Eshleman rated it it was amazing
I did not expect to be five-star fond of this book. With some Anglophile tendencies, adequate writing might have gotten me to 3 1/2. Lynne Olson's ability to breathe life into powerful scenes rescued from dusty archives makes this a worthwhile read for any writer who has made history less than scintillating.

I'll offer a few quick examples. She explained quickly but not in dry detail the elaborate protocol usually involved when the British monarch received ambassadors. Then she paints the scene w
Jul 28, 2016 Greig rated it really liked it
This was an eye opening account of the influence of three men on the entry of the US into World War Two. It tells the story of life in Britain in WWll through the eyes of journalist Ed Murrow , presidential representative Averell Harriman and US ambassador Gil Winant. It was their appreciation of the popular tribulations of the British people that convinced the American public and FDR to support the Uk with lend lease and increasing moral and physical support until Dec 1941.
Olson's account of li
Shawn Thrasher
Sep 21, 2016 Shawn Thrasher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Olson's book is quite strong and good; I dove into it from beginning to end. her writing never feels dry or scholarly, and she has a way with historical storytelling without coming across as overly pop. Though many of the stories Olson writes about are well known, there were also plenty of anecdotes and facts in the book that were completely new to me. For example, I knew next to nothing about Ambassador Winant before reading her book; he's a fascinating figure, almost as fascinating (or at leas ...more
Mar 22, 2015 Kent rated it it was amazing
An absolutely terrific book, one of my my favourites. Learned for the first time of John Gilbert Winant, US Ambassador to the Court of St. James, who unfortunately is now virtually unknown but beginning in 1940 was one of the most important Americans throughout the war. Edward R. Murrow also plays a stand out role and the book describes how Murrow became the icon of American journalism. I was also amazed at how much I grew to respect Dwight D. Eisenhower, especially with the difficulties he face ...more
Harlan Edmonds
Oct 20, 2014 Harlan Edmonds rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most students of WWII know at least a bit about Edward R. Murrow and Averell Harriman, but not many have heard of John Gilbert Winant, who replaced the infamous Joseph P. Kennedy as the U.S. ambassador to Britain just prior to the start of the war and stayed through to victory. Winant was greatly beloved and more famous in England than in his own country, and was a major figure in maintaining the alliance through its many stresses and strains, which are detailed in this fascinating history. Murr ...more
Mar 29, 2012 Pam rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic book! I've spent almost a week and a half engrossed in this amazing sweeping history of WWII that dissects and weaves the intersections of the Americans whose fates where so entwined with the British. Starting with the three critical Americans, Murrow the newscaster, Winant the ambassador, and Harriman the head of the lend-lease program, Olson provides the broadest and most comprehensive look at the special relationship between Great Britain and the United States. Historians hav ...more
Apr 21, 2010 Emily rated it liked it
Shelves: 2010
This book's structure is very similar to Lords of Finance. It's partly a group biography, but at the same time, the biography supports a larger history. Where Lords of Finance uses the central bankers of the U.S., Great Britain, France, and Germany to explore the period between the two world wars, this book uses Edward R. Murrow, Averill Harriman, and Gil Winant to tell the story of Anglo-American friendship during World War II.

This structure is most successful in the first third of the book, wh
Mar 28, 2010 Mike rated it it was amazing
Citizens of London is one of the finest examples of historic writing that I have personally read. I would put this book on the same level as Ambrose's Undaunted Courage and McCullough's 1776. The story moves very smoothly from start to finish without leaving the reader feeling as if something was missing. I was initially skeptical of reading this book, however after the first chapter all suspicions had been allayed. Better yet, the book didn't seem as if I was reading a textbook on World War II. ...more
Feb 03, 2010 Theresa rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Citizens of London is an amazing account of three Americans who lived in London that had a great influence over the relationship between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. As much of a key roll that John Gilbert Winant, Averell Harriman, and Edward R. Morrow played in having the US help Britain in WWII, I was surprised to find that I had heard of only Morrow before reading this book.

This interesting and intense book takes one through the lives, both private and public of those that pl
Vivian Valvano
Oct 21, 2012 Vivian Valvano rated it really liked it
Fascinating and very informative account of the relationship between Britain and America in WW II, focusing on Edward R. Murrow, head of CBS News in London and broadcaster par excellence; John Gilbert Winant, U. S. Ambassador to Britain who became particularly beloved by the English people; and Averell Harriman, millionaire in charge of the Lend-Lease Program who tried to maneuver his way into other avenues of power. It also focuses meaningfully on the relationship between President Roosevelt an ...more
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Before I began writing books full time, I worked for more than ten years as a journalist, including stints as Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press and White House correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. I've written seven books of history, including the New York Times bestsellers "Those Angry Days" and "Citizens of London." My latest book, "Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and th ...more
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“we’re inclined to say what we think, even when we have not thought very much.” 3 likes
“In Europe, Murrow observed to his wife, people were dying and "a thousand years of civilization [were] being smashed" while America remained on the sidelines. How could one possibly be objective or neutral about that?” 1 likes
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