Last Hope Island

Britain, Occupied Europe, and the Brotherhood that Helped Turn the Tide of War

When the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled over continental Europe in the early days of World War II, the city of London became a refuge for the governments and armed forces of six occupied nations who escaped there to continue the fight. So, too, did General Charles de Gaulle, the self-appointed representative of free France. As the only European democracy still holding out against Hitler, Britain became known to occupied countries as “Last Hope Island.”

In this epic, character-driven narrative, acclaimed historian Lynne Olson takes us back to those perilous days when the British and their European guests joined forces to combat the mightiest military force in history. It recalls with vivid humanity that brief moment in time when the peoples of Europe stood together in their effort to roll back the tide of conquest and restore order to a broken continent.

Here we meet the courageous King Haakon of Norway, whose distinctive “H7” monogram became a symbol of his country’s resistance to Nazi rule, and his fiery Dutch counterpart, Queen Wilhelmina, whose antifascist radio broadcasts rallied the spirits of her defeated people. Last Hope Island also recounts some of the Europeans’ heretofore unsung exploits that helped tilt the balance against the Axis: the crucial efforts of Polish pilots during the Battle of Britain; the vital role played by French and Polish code breakers in cracking the Germans’ reputedly indecipherable Enigma code; and the flood of top-secret intelligence about German operations—gathered by spies throughout occupied Europe—that helped insure the success of the 1944 Allied invasion.


“In Last Hope Island [Lynne Olson] argues an arresting new thesis: that the people of occupied Europe and the expatriate leaders did far more for their own liberation than historians and the public alike recognize…The scale of the organization she describes is breathtaking.”
The New York Times Book Review

“This is a history book that reads like the best thrillers….Olson offers a fascinating view of the war and its aftermath, less from a military than from a high-level civilian perspective….The many individuals are finely drawn, major developments are well covered, and the book provides and unusual and very insightful angle on the war.”
Booklist (starred review)

“Exciting and informative…[a] fascinating, uplifting and at times horrifying book…From out of the cloud of vague myths arises a complex narrative of need and desperation, tales of almost unimaginable courage, brilliant improvisation, fantastic stupidity and vile treachery.”
The Times (U.K.)

“A rip-roaring saga of hair-breadth escape, espionage, and resistance during World War II—Olson’s Last Hope Island salvages the forgotten stories of a collection of heroic souls from seven countries overrun by Hitler, who find refuge in Churchill’s London and then seek payback in ways large and small. In thrilling fashion, Olson shows us that hell hath no fury like a small country scorned.”
Erik Larson, New York Times best-selling author of The Splendid and the Vile

“A powerful and surprising account of how figures from Nazi-occupied Europe found Great Britain an essential shield and sword in the struggle against Hitler. This is a wonderful work of history, told in Olson’s trademark style.”
—Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of American Lion