NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW AND KIRKUS REVIEWS
From the acclaimed author of Citizens of London comes the definitive account of the debate over American intervention in World War II—a bitter, sometimes violent clash of personalities and ideas that divided the nation and ultimately determined the fate of the free world.
At the center of this controversy stood the two most famous men in America: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who championed the interventionist cause, and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who as unofficial leader and spokesman for America’s isolationists emerged as the president’s most formidable adversary. Their contest of wills personified the divisions within the country at large, and Lynne Olson makes masterly use of their dramatic personal stories to create a poignant and riveting narrative. While FDR, buffeted by political pressures on all sides, struggled to marshal public support for aid to Winston Churchill’s Britain, Lindbergh saw his heroic reputation besmirched—and his marriage thrown into turmoil—by allegations that he was a Nazi sympathizer.
Spanning the years 1939 to 1941, Those Angry Days vividly re-creates the rancorous internal squabbles that gripped the United States in the period leading up to Pearl Harbor. After Germany vanquished most of Europe, America found itself torn between its traditional isolationism and the urgent need to come to the aid of Britain, the only country still battling Hitler. The conflict over intervention was, as FDR noted, “a dirty fight,” rife with chicanery and intrigue, and Those Angry Days recounts every bruising detail. In Washington, a group of high-ranking military officers, including the Air Force chief of staff, worked to sabotage FDR’s pro-British policies. Roosevelt, meanwhile, authorized FBI wiretaps of Lindbergh and other opponents of intervention. At the same time, a covert British operation, approved by the president, spied on antiwar groups, dug up dirt on congressional isolationists, and planted propaganda in U.S. newspapers.
The stakes could not have been higher. The combatants were larger than life. With the immediacy of a great novel, Those Angry Days brilliantly recalls a time fraught with danger when the future of democracy and America’s role in the world hung in the balance.
Praise for Those Angry Days
“Powerfully [re-creates] this tenebrous era . . . Olson captures in spellbinding detail the key figures in the battle between the Roosevelt administration and the isolationist movement.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Popular history at its most riveting . . . In Those Angry Days, journalist-turned-historian Lynne Olson captures [the] period in a fast-moving, highly readable narrative punctuated by high drama.”—Associated Press
It's hard to recall, but going to war used to take a long time. The protracted two-year battle over F.D.R.'s gradual, hard-fought, bitter, and often necessarily devious campaign to prepare the U.S. for war and overcome powerful isolationist sentiment is the subject of this snappy, comprehensive book. At its center are Charles Lindbergh, a tin-eared, pro-German, unappealing, obtuse na f, and F.D.R., wily but hemmed in by political forces. Olson, author of numerous books on the WWII era (including Citizens of London), manages to keep her complex, character-filled story on keel as she describes the forces bearing down on F.D.R.'s administration while the world slipped into war. Familiar and unfamiliar figures military and civilian, private and public people the book, and delicious tales abound. Overall, the story is sobering, and it's hard to understand now how the run-up to America's greatest war was so fraught with political and cultural explosives. Olson tells the story unerringly, but the book however lively is largely descriptive and short on ideas, argument, and point of view.
The fighting, deception, and criticism of others ground on me. I enjoyed her other book, Last Hope Island. But this one, to me, was so discouraging. The tone was negative throughout. I couldn’t respect Roosevelt at all. I found him to be manipulative, and cowardly. I’m sure many will enjoy this book. Don’t count me among them.