18 September 2009


I don't necessarily read a lot of history, and in particular not a lot of military history, so I was somewhat skeptical when I picked this book up. It's not that I dislike history--I always performed well in the subject while in school, even going so far as to take a couple of history electives my senior year of college, just for the fun of it (one of them, coincidentally, happened to be British history from 1815-present, thus encompassing the events contained in this book). On top of that, I've always admired Franklin Delano Roosevelt. So, it wasn't as if I was totally uninterested in the subject matter, I just...well, let me back up and tell you what the subject matter was, how about that? Thomas Parrish's To Keep the British Isles Afloat draws its title from a command FDR made to one of its two protagonists, Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman. Hopkins and Harriman were Roosevelt's special envoys to Britain and to Winston Churchill in particular, and later the administrators and largely the shapers of the lend-lease program that constituted America's policy towards war involvement in the period immediately preceding our entry into World War II. Ostensibly, that's what the book is about, but what I read it for and enjoyed it for were the portraits it painted of Hopkins and Harriman. They were both really quite interesting and exciting guys, and Parrish manages to bring their grand adventures in Britain to life pretty well. So as far as I'm concerned, this is an easy B+. It held me, when I wasn't so sure I was going to be held. And in doing so, it provided me with a small and pleasant surprise, in addition to a far greater level of knowledge about lend-lease than I ever thought I'd have. Thank you, Mr. Parrish, for both of those things.

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