As Britain starts to extricate itself from Europe’s embrace, it is timely to examine the intricacies of this love-hate relationship at another point of crisis. Last Hope Island describes the many continental Europeans who, escaping Nazi occupation, found refuge in Britain during the second world war. Their stories are exciting, moving and horrifying, with foreign monarchs, spies, scientists and soldiers attempting to continue their battles from a vulnerable island that did not appear well placed to resist the probable German invasion. Lynne Olson, an American historian, has written many books about the war, and her clear-eyed prose challenges popular myths about Britain’s “finest hour”. She explores the remarkable bravery and ingenuity of these exiled European allies, but there are enough British failures and betrayals to make for hard, even upsetting reading. Although it is a brick of a book with a daunting number of subjects, it skips along, focusing on the vibrant personalities and their extraordinary stories. King Haakon VII of Norway was known to his people as “Mr King” for his egalitarian approach. Hitler was infuriated by the initial defiance of “this ridiculously small country and its petty king!” After dramatic car chases, and being strafed by German […]

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