Troublesome young men : the rebels who brought Churchill to power and helped save England

by Lynne Olson

Paper Book, 2007




New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.


On May 7, 1940, the House of Commons began perhaps the most crucial debate in British parliamentary history. On its outcome hung the future of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's government and also of Britain-indeed, perhaps, the world. Troublesome Young Men is Lynne Olson's fascinating account of how a small group of rebellious Tory MPs defied the Chamberlain government's defeatist policies that aimed to appease Europe's tyrants and eventually forced the prime minister's resignation. Some historians dismiss the "phony war" that preceded this turning point as a time of waiting and inaction, but Olson makes no such mistake, and describes in dramatic detail the public unrest that spread through Britain then, as people realized how poorly prepared the nation was to confront Hitler, how their basic civil liberties were being jeopardized, and also that there were intrepid politicians willing to risk political suicide to spearhead the opposition to Chamberlain-Harold Macmillan, Robert Boothby, Leo Amery, Ronald Cartland, and Lord Robert Cranborne among them. The political and personal dramas that played out in Parliament and in the nation as Britain faced the threat of fascism virtually on its own are extraordinary-and, in Olson's hands, downright inspiring.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RobertP
Grand read. I had a hard time putting it down. It is British history written by an American journalist, and that is a good thing. The prevarication, cant, moral relativism, cynicism, and class consciousness that impedes so much British history is absent. Ms. Olson tells it like it was (this is my
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review, this is what I think!) and puts Neville Chamberlain exactly where he belongs, in the dustbin of history. Winston Churchill comes off as a very nuanced figure. Clearly the great war leader we all know about (in part thanks to Mr. Churchill's qualities as an historian) but also as somewhat blinkered in many of his dealings with people and the institution of Parliament. The heroes of the story are the MPs, largely but not entirely young, who "spoke for England" when it was necessary.
Ms. Olson writes well, and has to my limited knowledge culled the secondary sources well for her work. Above all, she is to be commended for writing, in this day and age, a book which lays out clearly that there is a difference between good and evil. Well done. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member spk27
One of those rare and wonderful books that reads more like a novel than history.

And a damned good novel at that.

I enjoyed this book enormously
LibraryThing member LynnB
I really enjoyed this book because it is well written and well researched. Ms. Olson makes history come alive through her portrayal of people and events.

I think most people know about Winston Churchill's heroism and leadership through the Second World War. This book brought an added dimension in
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talking about Churchill as a parliamentarian and a party member who was very loyal to his leader, Neville Chamberlain, even though he completely disagreed with Chamberlain's policies.

Ms. Olson also brought depth of knowledge about the young Tory "rebels" who brought Churchill to power, complete with the backroom alliances and political intrigue that made this book a page turner!
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LibraryThing member Eliz12
A new word needs to be invented to describe this book, because "brilliant" and "extraordinary" are too tame.
I literally woke up in the middle of the night, after all the kids were in bed, so I could read this book - and I work full-time, so it wasn't that I would simply catch up on sleep the next
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This book is so well-written, so masterfully told, so insightful that I really have no words for it.
I thought I was fairly educated on the beginnings of WWII politics, but I knew nothing until I read Troublesome Young Men. It is the story of a handful of courageous men who stepped forward, of men of honor like Ronald Cartland, of men of bright character (and often characters themselves) who not only recognized the horror of Hitler but risked their own reputations, and often their own lives, to make certain that he would be defeated.
Absolutely magnificent.
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LibraryThing member Schmerguls
This book, published in 2007, tells of the course of British politics from Munich till after Churchill came to power in May of 1940. While Churchill decried the Munich pact, it is surprising how lionized Chamberlain was after Munich and how bitterly Chamberlain resented those members of his party
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who did not support him And Churchill made no effort to displace Chamberlain, especially after Churchill was taken into the Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty after war was declared on Sept 3, 1939. And the book is revealing in showing how feebly Chamberlain and his supporters waged war after Chamberlain was shamed into declaring war on Sept 3, 1939. One gets the idea that Chamberlain was still hoping that Hitler would make peace after he conquered Poland. Even after the debacle of the British in Norway Chamberlain was still likely to stay in power if the young men told about in this book had not, over Churchill's non-cooperation, insisted on Chamberlain being replaced. The book goes on to tell what happened to the "young men" who brought about Chamberlain's downfall and Churchill assuming power. I thought I knew all about these events but I learned a lot. For instance I did not know of Macmillan's wife's extended adultery and how it blighted Macmillan's life . I found the book full of things I did not know and depressingly informative of the period told about. One wonders if the account is overly pessimistic as to events in 1939 and 1940. If Britain was so unprepared up to May 1940 how did it manage to survive until Hitler stupidly attacked Russia before defeating England?
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LA Times Book Prize (Finalist — History — 2007)


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