In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Eve Story (Shadow Mountain, $19.99) tells the story of Christmas 1941, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill secretly traveled to meet with President Franklin D. Roosevelt during one of the bleakest holidays in modern history.
Just days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Churchill and Roosevelt met privately. Later that evening, from the balcony of the White House at the lighting of the national Christmas tree, the two leaders delivered a powerful message to an anxious crowd – a message that uplifted an entire nation during a time of great uncertainty.
“This is a strange Christmas Eve,” Churchill told the crowd of 20,000. “Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle….
“Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us.”
McCullough also wraps into this historic account the story of two classic Christmas carols and how music so profoundly affects our souls and our day. He recounts that the two world leaders, while attending a church service, sang a song Churchill had never before heard, “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” The song’s first stanza surprisingly mirrored the words Churchill spoke the previous night, “Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.”
Additionally, he tells how, in 1942, with more than one million Americans serving overseas, two New Yorkers gave the country hope with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” Recorded by Bing Crosby in 1943, the song expressed the longing for home and light in the darkness felt by so many.
In the Dark Streets Shineth, adapted from a live performance of McCullough with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, includes the full texts of both Churchill’s and Roosevelt’s speeches, along with historic photographs transporting readers to the early days of World War II and a DVD of McCullough’s 2009 performance with the Choir.
Best known for his biographies of Presidents Harry Truman and John Adams, this recent book by McCullough has already been heralded by reviewers as “a real gem of a book,” and “quietly powerful.” In the Dark Streets Shineth is available nationwide.