I started reading this book with a vague understanding of what happened at the Yalta Conference in February 1945. Not only did I gain a better insight into the issues at stake, I felt as if I had a front-row seat watching the three principals, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Marshal and Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin negotiate the terms by which they would cooperate to end WWII and establish peace. The author, Diana Preston, lays out clearly the public and private concerns of, both Churchill and Roosevelt before, during, and after the Conference.
Some of the questions to be addressed were:
• What surrender terms would be put to Germany. How was Germany going to be divided and what reparations would Germany make?
• What would happen to Poland? How would she be governed and what were going to be the country’s boundaries?
• How would the proposed United Nations be organized, and should Great Britain and the Soviet Union get additional seats for their territories?
• Under what terms would Russia go to war with Japan?
• What role would France have in the governance and control of post-war Germany?
In addition to the day-to-day proceedings, the lavish breakfasts with caviar, the long afternoon meetings, and alcohol-fueled dinners, Preston delves into the minds of the leaders and their numerous aides. Roosevelt was only to live a few months after the Conference, so a picture emerges of a weakened and clearly ill President fussed over by his daughter, Anne Boettinger. Churchill was the outsized personality familiar to many ready to break into long speeches at any moment. Stalin was often inscrutable, preferring to allow Roosevelt to talk and Churchill to orate, not speaking unless necessary. Of course, all these meetings were facilitated by translators and advisors.
There were also light-hearted moments and amusing incidents such as Stalin trying out his English or ordering a lemon tree full of lemons to be provided to the British delegation’s lodgings. Due to the lack of bathrooms, many Conference participants were brought up short after trying to relieve themselves in the bushes, only to be found out by Soviet guards patrolling the grounds.
What Preston has accomplished with these pages is spectacular. She has given readers seats at the Conference as well as a description of what was going on in the world outside. EDaY is meticulously researched. I highly recommend this book to history buffs, those interested in diplomacy, and anyone who wants to better understand how the decisions made at Yalta affect the world decades later.
Diana Preston tells it fluently, perceptively and with meticulous scholarship. -- Rodric Braithwaite * Spectator * Diana Preston chronicles those eight momentous days brilliantly. * Choice Magazine * Impressively researched . . . expert account * Kirkus Reviews * Diana Preston's lively and nuanced account, place[s] the protagonists much more in their moment, as the war was still raging and they were making decisions based on the information to hand . . . shrewd . . . vivid scene-setting -- Victor Sebestyen * Sunday Times * Diana Preston brings dry diplomacy to life. Sound in historical judgement and strong on personalities and emotions, she gives the reader a special pass to watch the world-changing events in the Livadia Palace from all the closest angles. -- Norman Davies, author of Europe: A History
A riveting minute-by-minute chronicle of the February 1945 conference that shaped the outcome of one war – and gave birth to another.