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

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  5,945 Ratings  ·  714 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
Paperback, 496 pages
Published May 3rd 2011 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 2010)
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Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jul 04, 2011 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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mikey B.
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jill Hutchinson
Review to follow but let me say that this is one of the most interesting looks at London during WWII that I have read in a long time.
Jun 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested in WWII in Europe and Anglophiles
Shelves: history-ww2
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
Aug 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading about WWII can be overwhelming but this book covers a lot of ground by focusing on three Americans (Edward Murrow, Gill Winant, and Averell Harriman) who each played a key role in working the diplomatic and political relations between the US and Great Britain. The details of the unique role each of these gentlemen played during the war is brought to light particularly as intermediaries between FDR and Winston Churchill. The author did a stellar job of bringing out the personalities The c ...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
Carol Ryan
Mar 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Helga Cohen
This was a very well researched book about London during World War II and some very brave and visionary Americans who lived in London during this tumultuous time. It was about 3 key Americans, broadcaster and head of CBS News Ed Murrow, the US ambassador John Winant, and the man to run the lend-lease program Averill Harriman. Murrow and Winant were most beloved by the British people after FDR. They lived the war and saw the struggles of the British people. She writes about the conflicts that ari ...more
Mar 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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.
Mar 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Citizens of London follows three men in London during WWII: Edward R. Murrow, the American Journalist and head of CBS News in Europe reporting on the war, Averell Harriman the man FDR appointed to run the Lend-Lease program, and Gil Winant, the U.S. Ambassador to Britain. These men lived the war. They were in London from the beginning and saw the destruction and the struggle that the locals faced every day. They all formed bonds with Churchill and played a part in some of the decisions made by h ...more
Jan 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was just wonderful in the way that the author presented the main players and leaders of World War 11 during this time in England and especially London. She presented and really made the reader fully aware of not only the people we learned about in school but also those who played pivotal roles in the ultimate success of the Allies. I learned an incredible amount about people like our Ambassador to England a wonderfully courageous and noble man named John Winant, Averall Harriman, a mul ...more
Jul 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look at US involvement in World War Two featuring the roles played by Averell Harriman (initially responsible for the lend-lease program), John Gilbert Winant (US ambassador to Britain) and Ed Murrow of CBS. The author, Lynne Olson not only chronicles the how and why affecting of US participation, she also brings the London of WWII vividly to life. The twists and turns of politics on both sides of the Atlantic in government as well as the military are revealed in all their stupidit ...more
Mar 22, 2015 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
This is one of the best books I've ever read. It's been a long time since I read a non-fiction book that struck an emotional chord with me as strong as a work of fiction. Maybe it's because the story of the Allied experience in WWII is so captivating in and of itself. But I think the success of this book also owes much to Olson's deft storytelling.

The main personalities are vividly rendered, and she has an amazing cast to work with. In addition to the three "main characters", Olson also offers
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 05, 2014 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
Sep 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
John Machata
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book. 4.5 stars. At times this personal history of the major players behind the scene get more personal and less historical than I would like. Still- a very good read.
David Schwartz
Oct 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, nonfiction
My ability to finish this book was imperiled when my cat, sensing that he was not at that moment the center of my universe, knocked a glass of water over onto it with extreme prejudice.

Thankfully, a couple days near the heating vent with a pile several heavy hardbacks from my to-read list piled on top left it in decent enough shape to finish up (far away from any liquids).

Olson has a nice style, and the book starts and ends well, but there are large swathes of the book that turn into sweeping ex
Aug 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned a lot from this entertaining and well-researched book about three Americans in London, each who played important roles in the special alliance between Britain and America throughout the course of WWII: Winant, the beloved ambassador; Harriman, the wealthy and ambitious facilitator of Roosevelt's Lend-Lease program; and Murrow, the ground-breaking, driven journalist. As interesting as these three men were, the book delves into many other players in those trying times, illuminating the h ...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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