While some of the last battles of WWII were being fought, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin—the so-called “Big Three”—met from February 4-11, 1945, in the Crimean resort town of Yalta. Over eight days of bargaining, bombast, and intermittent bonhomie, while Soviet soldiers and NKVD men patrolled the grounds of the three palaces occupied by their delegations, they decided, among other things, on the endgame of the war against Nazi Germany and how a defeated and occupied Germany should be governed, on the constitution of the nascent United Nations, on the price of Soviet entry into the war against Japan, on the new borders of Poland, and on spheres of influence elsewhere in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Greece.
With the deep insight of a skilled historian, drawing on the memorable accounts of those who were there—from the leaders and high level advisors such as Averell Harriman, Anthony Eden, and Andrei Gromyko, to Churchill’s clear-eyed secretary Marian Holmes and FDR’s insightful daughter Anna Boettiger—Diana Preston has, on the 75th anniversary of this historic event, crafted a masterful and vivid chronicle of the conference that created the post-war world, out of which came decisions that still resonate loudly today.
Ever since, who “won” Yalta has been debated. Three months after the conference, Roosevelt was dead, and right after Germany’s surrender, Churchill wrote to the new president, Harry Truman, of “an iron curtain” that was now “drawn upon [the Soviets’] front.” Knowing his troops controlled eastern Europe, Stalin’s judgment in April 1945 thus speaks volumes: “Whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system.”
Praise for Eight Days at Yalta:
“Lively and nuanced . . . Shrewd on the main personalities . . . Preston goes beyond the horse-trading of three old men, with vivid scene-setting of the tsarist palaces where the conference took place.”—Times (UK)
“In this well-written and absorbing book, Diana Preston provides a chronological narrative of these crucial eight days.”—Airmail
“On the Yalta conference’s 75th anniversary, this insightful history recounts its enormous, if teeth-gnashing, accomplishments . . . Impressively researched . . . An expert account of an unedifying milestone at the dawn of the Cold War.”—Kirkus Reviews
“[A] spirited, behind-the-scenes account of the February 1945 Yalta Conference. Preston mixes foreign policy critique . . . with vibrant descriptions of backstage activities . . . Colorful personalities, piquant details, and a diverse array of perspectives make this a satisfying introduction to the subject.”—Publishers Weekly
Praise for Diana Preston:
“Preston deftly and graphically weaves the complex stories—hitherto kept distinct—of these land, sea, and air innovations into a connected narrative. For the first time, readers can grasp the mounting cognitive assault on civilians, soldiers, and politicians of the curious clustering of events that spring.”—New York Times Book Review, on A Higher Form of Killing
“A gripping and excellent book . . . [Preston’s] extensive archival research fills in the historical chronology with well-selected quotations from personal accounts of participants at every level of civilian and military life.”—Washington Post, on A Higher Form of Killing
“Unforgettable . . . The definitive account of the Lusitania.”—Philadelphia Inquirer, on Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy
“As majestic as its subject . . . Extraordinarily readable.”—Chicago Sun-Times, on Lusitania: An Epic Tragedy
“An engaging narrative . . . Rich in detail and texture.”—San Diego Union Tribune, on Before the Fallout: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima
“Ultimately this book is about survival, and the author engagingly recounts the nearly impossible task of trying to establish a penal colony with few supplies and poor agricultural conditions. Preston shines in her description of the true nature of Captain Bligh . . . A wonderful look into the beginnings of Australia and the remarkable strength of the survivors of these dangerous voyages.”—Kirkus Reviews, on Paradise in Chains