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Five Days in London, May 1940 Audible – Unabridged

3.9 out of 5 stars 103 customer reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This book is a thrill to read: the crucial five day period during which a very small group of determined people, led by one particularly - determined man, persuaded England and The West to hold the line against Hitler, and at least arguably saved The World...
The story is not new, but this presentation of it is. A generation -- or so, now -- raised on Wheeler - Bennett and AJP Taylor, and Nicolson and Namier and all the very many others, knows very well the story of Winston Churchill and his country's lonely stand against the Axis just following the Fall of France.
What never has been presented as dramatically as John Lukacs now presents it are the machinations, and the political follies and wisdom, and the ultimately very personal story of just how Churchill and a few others convinced the British at the time to do what they did: not in broad brushstrokes -- those are far easier to paint, as so many have on this topic -- but in the meticulous details which, alone, can show the individual frustrations, fears, jealousies, and uncertainties which characterize any truly historic human situation.
Detailed and meticulous as it is, however -- Lukacs is a well - respected historian -- the book is very short, and very dramatic, not at all pedantic or defensive as books about the period increasingly tend to be. His writing style flows smoothly. His aim, the author says in his Preface, is to explore an idea he has held for "forty, perhaps even fifty, years" that the five days specified in the title were critical not only because of the Fall of France but also because, "Churchill's situation within the War Cabinet was much more difficult than most people, including historians at that time, thought".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author's premise, correctly stated from the book, is that Hitler never came closer to winning his European war than at the end of May, 1940.
A newly installed Prime Minister, Churchill, was presented with: France on the verge of defeat, the BEF bottled up on the coast at Dunkirk, no allies on the horizon once France was gone, an aristocracy that had some members who admired and/or feared Hitler, and a Conservative majority in Parliament which at that point tolerated is presence rather than enthusiastically embracing him.
The War Cabinet, Churchill and four other senior members of the cabinet, had to decide whether or not to fight it out no matter what, or inquire of Hitler upon what terms he would allow England to survive. That is at least how Lord Halifax saw the options. Churchill was resolute from the beginning -- any hint try at accommodation would lead to the eventual destruction of Britain and cement the Nazi map of Europe in place.
The five days in question follow a long debate among the cabinet, or chiefly among Churchill and Halifax, regarding the issue of whether or not to advance an overture to Hitler. Chamberlain played some role, usually siding with Churchill as the discussions progresssed, but holding the balance of power none the less.
Why is this debate important? Well, with the clarity offered by hindsight, it is now easy to appreciate that any attempt at purchasing peace from Hitler would have only meant a thus weakened Britain would have been added to the Third Reich later. In the spring of 1940, serious people seriously discussed this acquiescence strategy in London. If that strategy had been followed, it is possible that the English government of the time could have lost the war for civilization. Thus, the author's important point is correct.
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Format: Hardcover
"But in May 1940 Churchill was the one who did not loose it" This is the theme of a compact, extraordinary 5 days that decided the outcome of WWII. This is certainly not the only event that brought the allies victory, however Mr. Lukacs demonstrates that while England was never in a position to win the war alone, she was in a position to loose it, and Churchill was the individual who saw that it was not lost. I don't believe he overstates Churchill's role in the slightest. Had the War gone the other way Churchill certainly would have been given all the blame. Churchill was flawed, but during the decade of 1930, in what are often referred to as "His Wilderness Years" the same men who would later owe their existence and that of their Country's continuance to him rejected him out of hand. When he finally became Prime Minister it was when all the disasters had begun or had been completed. Churchill was given the mess that he inherited from Chamberlein and others; Alsace Lorraine gone, Austria gone, Czechoslovakia given away with Chamberlain's active participation punctuated by the "Peace In Our Time" debacle. Further, France was quickly falling apart, as were the Low Countries, Dunkirk loomed, and what is worse, Churchill had to cope with members of his own Cabinet that wanted to negotiate with Hitler as he was storming across Europe. Churchill managed to bring those in government and the public to his side, and the rest as they say is History. Mr. Lukacs provides great additional information, footnotes that are as informative as the body of the text, and an even handed description of those players involved including Churchill. Brilliantly written History, that is also readable, and demonstrates that what we may have thought of as an event that actually did take years to finish, may well have been decided in 5 days. Buy the book you will not be disappointed.
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