Lynne Olson

Journalist & Author of Historical Nonfiction
New York Times Bestseller
Travels from: Washington, DC

“Lynne Olson was one of the nicest speakers I have worked with, and she was so gracious with her time with visiting our exhibit, spending time with donors at dinner, and signing books. Everyone loved the lecture, and it was a great event!” – Oregon Historical Society

Lynne Olson is a New York Times bestselling author of eight books of history, most of which deal in some way with World War II and Britain’s crucial role in that conflict. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has called Olson “our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.”

Her latest book, Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against the Nazis, was published by Random House on March 5, 2019, and is the little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II. The book was an immediate New York Times bestseller.

Two of Olson’s previous books, Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, and Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, were also New York Times bestsellers. Those Angry Days was named by the New York Times and Kirkus as one of the best books of 2013. Citizens of London was selected by the American Library Association as one of its top nonfiction books in 2010. It was also included on Amazon’s list of best books of the year.

Born in Hawaii, Olson graduated magna cum laude from the University of Arizona. Before becoming a full-time author, she worked as a journalist for ten years, first with the Associated Press as a national feature writer in New York, a foreign correspondent in AP’s Moscow bureau, and a political reporter in Washington. She left the AP to join the Washington bureau of the Baltimore Sun, where she covered national politics and eventually the White House.

An engaging speaker, Lynne Olson has lectured at many private and government organizations, universities and colleges, and libraries. Olson lives in Washington, DC with her husband, Stanley Cloud, with whom she co-authored two books.

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Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler

Random House |
Nonfiction
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • The little-known true story of Marie-Madeleine Fourcade, the woman who headed the largest spy network in occupied France during World War II, from the bestselling author of Citizens of London and Last Hope Island

“Brava to Lynne Olson for a biography that should challenge any outdated assumptions about who deserves to be called a hero.”—The Washington Post

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR AND THE WASHINGTON POST

In 1941 a thirty-one-year-old Frenchwoman, a young mother born to privilege and known for her beauty and glamour, became the leader of a vast intelligence organization—the only woman to serve as a chef de résistance during the war. Strong-willed, independent, and a lifelong rebel against her country’s conservative, patriarchal society, Marie-Madeleine Fourcade was temperamentally made for the job. Her group’s name was Alliance, but the Gestapo dubbed it Noah’s Ark because its agents used the names of animals as their aliases. The name Marie-Madeleine chose for herself was Hedgehog: a tough little animal, unthreatening in appearance, that, as a colleague of hers put it, “even a lion would hesitate to bite.”

No other French spy network lasted as long or supplied as much crucial intelligence—including providing American and British military commanders with a 55-foot-long map of the beaches and roads on which the Allies would land on D-Day—as Alliance. The Gestapo pursued them relentlessly, capturing, torturing, and executing hundreds of its three thousand agents, including Fourcade’s own lover and many of her key spies. Although Fourcade, the mother of two young children, moved her headquarters every few weeks, constantly changing her hair color, clothing, and identity, she was captured twice by the Nazis. Both times she managed to escape—once by slipping naked through the bars of her jail cell—and continued to hold her network together even as it repeatedly threatened to crumble around her.

Now, in this dramatic account of the war that split France in two and forced its people to live side by side with their hated German occupiers, Lynne Olson tells the fascinating story of a woman who stood up for her nation, her fellow citizens, and herself.

“Fast-paced and impressively researched . . . Olson writes with verve and a historian’s authority. . . . With this gripping tale, Lynne Olson pays [Marie-Madeleine Fourcade] what history has so far denied her. France, slow to confront the stain of Vichy, would do well to finally honor a fighter most of us would want in our foxhole.”—The New York Times Book Review

Last Hope Island: Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood That Helped Turn the Tide of War

Random House |
Nonfiction

A groundbreaking account of how Britain became the base of operations for the exiled leaders of Europe in their desperate struggle to reclaim their continent from Hitler, from the New York Times bestselling author of Citizens of London and Those Angry Days

When the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled over continental Europe in the early days of World War II, the city of London became a refuge for the governments and armed forces of six occupied nations who escaped there to continue the fight. So, too, did General Charles de Gaulle, the self-appointed representative of free France.

As the only European democracy still holding out against Hitler, Britain became known to occupied countries as “Last Hope Island.” Getting there, one young emigré declared, was “like getting to heaven.”

In this epic, character-driven narrative, acclaimed historian Lynne Olson takes us back to those perilous days when the British and their European guests joined forces to combat the mightiest military force in history. Here we meet the courageous King Haakon of Norway, whose distinctive “H7” monogram became a symbol of his country’s resistance to Nazi rule, and his fiery Dutch counterpart, Queen Wilhelmina, whose antifascist radio broadcasts rallied the spirits of her defeated people. Here, too, is the Earl of Suffolk, a swashbuckling British aristocrat whose rescue of two nuclear physicists from France helped make the Manhattan Project possible.

Last Hope Island also recounts some of the Europeans’ heretofore unsung exploits that helped tilt the balance against the Axis: the crucial efforts of Polish pilots during the Battle of Britain; the vital role played by French and Polish code breakers in cracking the Germans’ reputedly indecipherable Enigma code; and the flood of top-secret intelligence about German operations—gathered by spies throughout occupied Europe—that helped ensure the success of the 1944 Allied invasion.

A fascinating companion to Citizens of London, Olson’s bestselling chronicle of the Anglo-American alliance, Last Hope Island recalls with vivid humanity that brief moment in time when the peoples of Europe stood together in their effort to roll back the tide of conquest and restore order to a broken continent.

Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941

Random House Trade Paperbacks |
Nonfiction

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW AND KIRKUS REVIEWS

From the acclaimed author of Citizens of London comes the definitive account of the debate over American intervention in World War II—a bitter, sometimes violent clash of personalities and ideas that divided the nation and ultimately determined the fate of the free world.

At the center of this controversy stood the two most famous men in America: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who championed the interventionist cause, and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who as unofficial leader and spokesman for America’s isolationists emerged as the president’s most formidable adversary. Their contest of wills personified the divisions within the country at large, and Lynne Olson makes masterly use of their dramatic personal stories to create a poignant and riveting narrative. While FDR, buffeted by political pressures on all sides, struggled to marshal public support for aid to Winston Churchill’s Britain, Lindbergh saw his heroic reputation besmirched—and his marriage thrown into turmoil—by allegations that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

Spanning the years 1939 to 1941, Those Angry Days vividly re-creates the rancorous internal squabbles that gripped the United States in the period leading up to Pearl Harbor. After Germany vanquished most of Europe, America found itself torn between its traditional isolationism and the urgent need to come to the aid of Britain, the only country still battling Hitler. The conflict over intervention was, as FDR noted, “a dirty fight,” rife with chicanery and intrigue, and Those Angry Days recounts every bruising detail. In Washington, a group of high-ranking military officers, including the Air Force chief of staff, worked to sabotage FDR’s pro-British policies. Roosevelt, meanwhile, authorized FBI wiretaps of Lindbergh and other opponents of intervention. At the same time, a covert British operation, approved by the president, spied on antiwar groups, dug up dirt on congressional isolationists, and planted propaganda in U.S. newspapers.

The stakes could not have been higher. The combatants were larger than life. With the immediacy of a great novel, Those Angry Days brilliantly recalls a time fraught with danger when the future of democracy and America’s role in the world hung in the balance.

Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour

Random House Trade Paperbacks |
Nonfiction

The acclaimed author of Troublesome Young Men reveals the behind-the-scenes story of how the United States forged its wartime alliance with Britain, told from the perspective of three key American players in London: Edward R. Murrow, the handsome, chain-smoking head of CBS News in Europe; Averell Harriman, the hard-driving millionaire who ran FDR’s Lend-Lease program in London; and John Gilbert Winant, the shy, idealistic U.S. ambassador to Britain. Each man formed close ties with Winston Churchill—so much so that all became romantically involved with members of the prime minister’s family. Drawing from a variety of primary sources, Lynne Olson skillfully depicts the dramatic personal journeys of these men who, determined to save Britain from Hitler, helped convince a cautious Franklin Roosevelt and reluctant American public to back the British at a critical time. Deeply human, brilliantly researched, and beautifully written, Citizens of London is a new triumph from an author swiftly becoming one of the finest in her field.

Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England

Farrar, Straus and Giroux |
Nonfiction

A riveting history of the daring politicians who challenged the disastrous policies of the British government on the eve of World War II

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—from September 1939, when Britain and France declared war on Germany, to May 1940, when Winston Churchill became prime minister—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.

Freedom’s Daughters: The Unsung Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement from 1830 to 1970

Scribner |
Nonfiction

The first comprehensive history of the vital role womenboth black and whiteplayed in the civil rights movement.

In this groundbreaking and absorbing book, credit finally goes where credit is dueto the bold women who were crucial to the success of the civil rights movement. From the Montgomery bus boycott to the lunch counter sit-ins to the Freedom Rides, Lynne Olson skillfully tells the long-overlooked story of the extraordinary women who were among the most fearless, resourceful, and tenacious leaders of the civil rights movement.

Freedom’s Daughters includes portraits of more than sixty womenmany until now forgotten and some never before written aboutfrom key figures like Ida B. Wells, Eleanor Roosevelt, Ella Baker, and Septima Clark to some of the smaller players who represent the hundreds of women who each came forth to do her own small part and who together ultimately formed the mass movements that made the difference. Freedom’s Daughters puts a human face on the civil rights struggleand shows that that face was often female.

20th Century Leaders and Their Lessons for Today

The Varying Arts of Leadership: Roosevelt & Churchill

The "Special Relationship": How America and Britain Worked Together to Win World War II

Brexit and World War II

Women and Resistance in World War II

Lynne’s Newsletter

Madame Fourcade’s Reading Guide

Honors, Awards & Recognition

New York Times Bestseller
National Bestseller
American Library Association Notable Books
New York Times Review of Books – Notable Book
Named Washington Post and NPR’s one of the Best Books of the Year

 

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