Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour
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Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  2,594 ratings  ·  395 reviews
The acclaimed author ofTroublesome Young Menreveals 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 Lond...more
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Published February 2nd 2010 by Random House (first published 2010)
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Nov 18, 2012 Margie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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
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...more
Jun 24, 2010 Lisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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...more
Jan 28, 2013 Margery rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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....more
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...more
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...more
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
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
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...more
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 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
Vivian Valvano
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
When I started this book, I thought I’d discard it after the introduction, joining the pile of nonfiction that I was interested in the topic in a passing sort of way but didn’t have the stamina to finish a whole book about it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this initial prediction was way off.

I really enjoyed Olson's style and as someone who knew very little about WWII going in, most of the stuff she covered was new to me. She brings her “characters” to life so vividly, I found myself...more
William Blair
Another interesting and engaging book about World War II. Very readable, and almost impossible to put down. Another book that benefits from documents now coming available these many years after World War II. Very, very interesting. Fills in a lot of holes (I didn't know I had) about some of the major figures of the era. The surprising thing to me was the odd behavior of President Roosevelt, especially towards General Charles de Gaulle. I wonder if it was personal, political, or some side-effect...more
Read this book if you think you know a lot about World War II. It will humble you and embarrass you. Much more than the story of the three principal Americans profiled in this book, it's a great read on the war-period. Very enlightening and informative. Tells it like it was. The Anglo-American reliance with all this talk in today's news of a special relationship almost didn't happen. It was not a happy marriage. As usual it was individual Americans and the everyday American, not the American gov...more
David Schwartz
Today we think of Britain as our closest ally, the one nation with which we have a “special relationship.” Lynne Olson’s book brings us back to a time, not so long ago, when that wasn’t the case – when the US wanted nothing to do with European political and military conflict, and when Americans tended to think of Britain, when they did at all, with deep suspicion arising from two centuries of mistrust. And that mistrust wasn’t a one way thing – the British thought little of their American cousin...more
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...more
The United States did not want to get involved in WWII, there was a very strong isolationist sentiment in the states. Many felt what happened in Europe would not affect the US. President Roosevelt felt involvement in the war was inevitable but wanted the approval of the American people.

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...more
For those of you who enjoy reading history, this is a terrific book. The book jacket says it's a "...behind the scenes story of how the US forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, Averell Harriman, and John Gilbert Winant." But it's also about Eisenhower and Montogomery and other WWII military leaders, the Polish and French and Americans who came to London to help fight the war, Tommy Hitchcock and the effect o...more
Sue Kliewer
This has been on my to-read shelf for over two years so I decided it was time to read it. This book gives an up close look at the social and political relationships of several people who are close to the action in London during WWII. I learned so much about what went on behind the scenes. While I really liked the book I will say it is dense, and by that I mean it is packed with information and certainly not a quick read. I was glad I had the time to devote to it as I don't think it will have as...more

Excellent and honest portrayal of the Americans who stood by London during the war... Edward R.Murrow, Eisenhower, Averell Harriman, but especially John G. Winant, former governor of New Hampshire, Republican and FDR's pick for American Ambassador to London once Joe Kennedy had been removed. Fascinating description of the relationships forged between these and Churchill, Anthony Eden, Clement Atlee during those six years. How London suffered especially during the Blitz. The author does not pull...more
Gerry Welsch
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. So much history I did not know. Wish I had read it while I was still teaching.
I learned so much about the people, places and strategies of WWII and the challenges of forming alliances. Of course, I knew something of Morrow, Churchill, FDR, and Eisenhower. I am embarrassed to admit I had never heard of Gil Winant. Now I am in awe of his accomplishments. Olson also offers the most thorough examination of London during the Blitz and the year...more
Lynne Olson, "Citizen's of London" reads like a novel but is a serious history of how Edward R Murrow, Averell Harriman and especially US Ambassador to England, John Gilbert Winant prodded FDR into Lend/Lease and eventually,(after Pearl Harbor and Germany's declaration of war against the US) the US's entrance into WW11. Joesph Kennedy was Winant's predecessor. Olsen documents what a complete incompetent (boob) Ambassador Kennedy was and how Winant reversed Kennedy's screw ups and became one of E...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 six books of history, including the national bestseller "Citizens of London." My latest book, "Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight for World War II" (Mar...more
More about Lynne Olson...
Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England A Question of Honor: The Kosciuszko Squadron: Forgotten Heroes of World War II Freedom's Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970 The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism

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“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?” 0 likes
“we’re inclined to say what we think, even when we have not thought very much.” 0 likes
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