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Troublesome Young Men


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About the Author

Lynne Olson, former White House correspondent for The Sun (Baltimore), is the author of Freedom's Daughters, and co-author, with her husband, Stanley Cloud, of A Question of Honor and The Murrow Boys. She lives in Washington, D.C.


In 1930s England, faced with the gathering menace of fascism, 30 or so junior members of Parliament understood that Hitler would not be dissuaded by Prime Minister Chamberlain's policy of appeasement. Their rebellion against their leader and the "elderly mediocrities" of their own Conservative Party is the subject of Olson's absorbing book. The forces opposed to Chamberlain were initially inhibited by party loyalty and the ferocious reprisals threatened against anyone who challenged the prime minister. Olson traces how Hitler's continuing depredations (Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland) served to recruit more insurgents in the House of Commons and galvanize those shamed by England's inaction. Olson's story picks up energy as she reviews the events of 1940, when at long last Chamberlain was replaced by Churchill. Olson is interested in the moral imperatives driving her protagonists. The dominant figure in the narrative, of course, is Churchill, who despised Chamberlain's defeatism but served loyally in his cabinet until Chamberlain's forced resignation. Infused with the sense of urgency felt by the young Tories, Olson's vivid narrative of a critical generational clash leaves the reader wondering what might have happened had they prevailed earlier on. (Apr.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Here is the engrossing story of the British Tory dissidents, upper-class MPs who denounced Neville Chamberlain's attempts to mollify Hitler's ravenous territorial ambitions in pre-World War II Europe. The "Young Rebels" despised appeasement as a diplomatic strategy and sought to remove Chamberlain from office. As back benchers, they were expected to tow the Conservative Party line strictly enforced by Chamberlain and his Tory whip, David Margesson. Yet Ronald Cartland, Harold Macmillan, Bob Boothby, Harold Nicholson, and their like-minded colleagues risked political suicide in their frustrating attempts to oust Chamberlain and to make Winston Churchill prime minister. It was only after the outbreak of hostilities and the dual defeats in Norway and France that their concerns finally gained traction: Chamberlain stepped down and the indomitable Churchill became England's leader, vindicating the Young Rebels. Olson (Freedom's Daughters) does a superb job of capturing the smoked-filled, whiskey-soaked ambience of British politics and the web of personal relationships involved. While not sympathetic to Chamberlain's diplomatic strategy, she does convey the complexities of developing an effective foreign policy in a parliamentary government. For a more sympathetic view of Chamberlain's attempts to keep the peace, see Peter Neville's Hitler and Appeasement. Olson has crafted a seamless narrative that flows from primary and secondary sources and is a worthy addition to all World War II collections.-Jim Doyle, Sara Hightower Regional Lib., Rome, GA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

"A well-written, fast-paced book that reads like a political thriller . . . Troublesome Young Men is an extraordinary tale of political courage in perilous times-and a wonderfully written book." --Terry Hartle, Christian Science Monitor "[A] riveting book . . . Olson tells her story with verve, never letting the reader forget what was really at risk--and what might have happened if these particular troublemakers hadn't been so willing to stir the political pot." --The Atlantic Monthly "During the 1930s, as the rise of Nazism threatened western civilization, Winston Churchill's was a lonely voice warning of the coming danger, opposing the British government's policy of appeasement and urging immediate rearmament. Lonely, but not entirely alone. For a few younger Tory members of Parliament held similar views about the German threat, though they did not necessarily agree with Churchill on other issues. The odds were against them, and in attacking their own party's leaders they put their careers at risk, but in the end they and their allies prevailed: Neville Chamberlain and his defeatist government were overthrown, opening up the room at the top that Churchill so famously filled. Lynne Olson has seized upon their wonderful but neglected story and has told it with verve. It is a riveting tale, immensely readable, that brings to history the excitement of a novel." --David Fromkin, author of Europe's Last Summer

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