Wednesday, August 23, 2017

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

Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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 him and by FDR. These men may have been "foreigners" living in the heart of the European fight but they were Londoners in their own right.

This book was very well researched and got to the heart of each man. Olson was able to get very personal with each man, showing flaws and all. We also see a bit of a different side of the relationship between FDR and Churchill than is often discussed. These men were often seen as close friends who worked together as allies, but the relationship had its strains. This is well worth the read for anyone that is interested in WWII, particularly from the British point of view.

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Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Review: The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Viet Thanh Nguyen's Pulitizer Prize winning story The Sympathizer is a haunting tale of espionage at the end of the Vietnam War. The unnamed narrator of the story is a communist double agent and refugee of the war, sent to America with the General he was sent to spy on. As the story unfolds we realize the narrator is a captured man, giving his confession and detailing his time in America and the Philippines. The story touches on many themes but centers around the narrator's duality. He is half Vietnamese, half French, working as a Viet Cong spy undercover as a south Vietnamese spy. He has become a Vietnamese American not fully feeling that he belongs in American or Vietnamese society. He is a conflicted man of two minds struggling to understand his own political beliefs and his place in two worlds.

This was at times a tough read for me. I have a very good friend who is the son of a former south Vietnamese Navy Commander that was one of the last evacuated from the war. The scenes of the narrator's evacuation are very similar to what my friend has shared with me of his own experience. I can only imagine what it must feel like to come to a country as a refugee and not feeling as if you fit in any where. I have to admit that at times the spying scenes and political rhetoric were not as exciting for me, but it is a very good look at an often overlooked perspective of the impact of the Vietnam War.

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