Review: London Diary, by Quentin Reynolds

One thing I love about reading older books is that often they were intended to be read immediately, to change the way people thought, and were not aimed at posterity. This is that kind of book, and it works as a kind of time machine for that reason.

Quentin Reynolds, a legendary American journalist, found himself in London during the Blitz 80 years ago. This is his day by day account of what happened. A documentary film made at the same time — he was the narrator — was called “London Can Take It”. And that pretty much sums up Reynolds’ view.

His descriptions of how Londoners — and other British people — coped under the most difficult circumstances are memorable. His portraits of his fellow journalists (who seemed to spend most of their time in bars and restaurants) are unforgettable. The case he makes for America to do more to support Britain is unanswerable.

The one lapse in the book — and I found this odd — is his characterisation of U.S. Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, father of the future President John F. Kennedy. Joe was a notorious isolationist, and an opponent of America’s entry into the war, but Reynolds writes about him with great sympathy, and says he was very well liked in Britain.