I was really excited to start reading Lynne Olson’s new book, Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War (BOOK | KINDLE), which was released last week by @randomhouse. The book tells the stories of many of the governments and leaders of Nazi-occupied countries in Europe that were forced to flee to Britain where they set up their governments-in-exile with London as their de facto capital and made significant contributions to the war effort that ultimately helped defeat Hitler’s Germany and free their home nations.
What really attracted me to Last Hope Island was the story of King Haakon VII of Norway who is really one of the unsung heroes of World War II but whose role is largely unknown outside of his country. It’s difficult to find good books about King Haakon that aren’t written in Norwegian, so I was really pleased to find that he is one of the main characters that Lynne Olson writes about in Last Hope Island, alongside fascinating figures such as Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Charles de Gaulle, Jan Masaryk of Czechoslovakia, the Earl of Suffolk, Belgian King Leopold III, and many other men and women – largely from the occupied countries overrun in the Blitzkrieg – whose roles in the resistance and ultimate Allied victory have long been overlooked. There aren’t enough great books that explore the integral contributions to the Allied war effort by Europeans from the occupied countries, but Last Hope Island tells those stories and shares some really surprising information such as the fact that 20% of the Royal Air Force pilots flying during the Battle of Britain weren’t British or that the Norwegian shipping fleet, which was the fourth-largest in the world at the time and the most technologically-advanced, was largely responsible for replenishing the British shipping losses incurred during the devastating unrestricted submarine warfare by German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Lynne Olson has written some top-notch books about World War II – I’d especially suggest checking out Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 (BOOK | KINDLE) and Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour (BOOK | KINDLE) – and I believe Last Hope Island is her very best yet. I’m a huge fan of Olson’s style which is reminiscent of Erik Larson’s (The Devil in the White City) ability to simultaneously tell multiple stories about forgotten people or overlooked subjects while seemingly making whatever topic she’s writing about it at that very moment feel like the only topic you ever want to focus on. Lynne Olson’s Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War (BOOK | KINDLE) is one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2017, it is available right now from @randomhouse, and I can’t recommend it enough so go get it now.