Eight Days at Yalta: How Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin Shaped the Post-war World

Diana Preston. Atlantic Monthly, $28 (416p) ISBN 978-0-8021-4765-3
Historian Preston (Paradise in Chains) describes how “war-weary” British prime minister Winston Churchill, “seriously ill” U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet autocrat Joseph Stalin planned the end of WWII in this spirited, behind-the-scenes account of the February 1945 Yalta Conference. Preston mixes foreign policy critique—arguing, for example, that if the U.S. had threatened Russia with curtailing the Lend-Lease program for military allies, Poland might have been better served by the negotiations, and if Churchill and Roosevelt had been better briefed on the progress of the Manhattan Project, they might not have been so keen to have the Red Army join the fight against Japan—with vibrant descriptions of backstage activities, including Soviet intelligence agents intercepting British and American communications and “half-starving” Romanian prisoners of war reviving dilapidated palace gardens. Preston brings to the fore secondary characters like Anna Boettiger, Roosevelt’s daughter, who curtailed access to her father while looking after his health, and reveals how Stalin’s unwillingness to compromise over Eastern Europe, FDR’s focus on the United Nations, Churchill’s determination to retain control over Hong Kong, and the exclusion of “irksome” French leader Charles de Gaulle helped to shape the post-WWII order. Colorful personalities, piquant details, and a diverse array of perspectives make this a satisfying introduction to the subject. Agent: Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management. (Mar)
Reviewed on : 12/02/2019
Release date: 02/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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