The Daughters of Yalta: The Churchills, Roosevelts, and Harrimans: A Story of Love and War
The 1945 Yalta Conference was strictly a man’s meeting, but the presence of three young women to serve as supplementary diplomats was a clever plan. President Franklin Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and US Ambassador to Russia Averell Harriman brought their well-schooled daughters to throw their gentle weight into the mix in an attempt to prevent the conference mood from deteriorating. Held in the bleak Crimean winter, Yalta was convened to set the postwar world on a viable path. The two major Western leaders would sit down with Joseph Stalin who, as an equal enemy of the Nazis, was their prospective ally.
Catherine Grace Katz introduces new elements of the meeting in her book. The plenary sessions, the meetings behind closed doors, and the ambience of the Russian surroundings of friendship, become almost ominous in retrospect. Katz introduces the human element, the inhospitable weather, a shortage of bathrooms, endless meals, exhaustion, and an on-the-edge atmosphere.
Readers familiar with the political ambience will be surprised by the book’s view of two older women whose customary image is almost shattered from the young women’s standpoint. Eleanor Roosevelt now becomes a neglectful, unattractive mother, less certain of herself. Clementine Churchill, smart but sugary, becomes a more dominant force, subjecting Churchill to unfamiliar domestic strictness. Kathy Harriman, with her attractive widowed father and her mastery of the Russian language, plays a significant role in tempering the moods of the three stars in the drama.
Daughters of Yalta is a splendid disclosure, not only of the principal characters, but also by the disturbing conclusion of the conference, a week that foresaw the ultimate alarming shift in friendships.
|Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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