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Mitterrand: A Study in Ambiguity Hardcover – 14 Nov 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Bodley Head (14 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1847920063
  • ISBN-13: 978-1847920065
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 4.4 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 257,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Short gives an extremely vivid account of the way Mitterrand exercised the office of president" (Jonathan Derbyshire Prospect)

"An excellent new book... The story of the rebuilding of France after the war in an equally embittered and divided republic" (Andrew Adonis New Statesman)

"A compelling read for anyone interested in international power politics" (Richard Davenport-Hines Daily Telegraph)

"[Mitterrand] remains an endlessly fascinating figure, and Philip Short tells the story expertly in this deeply researched and marvellously readable biography" (David A. Bell Guardian)

"A stunningly detailed investigation of a monumental political character" (Robert Collins Sunday Times)

Book Description

A definitive biography of one of the twentieth century's most glamorous, complicated political figures.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dalgety on 7 Dec. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a first class personal and political biography of one of the most significant French and European statesmen of the past hundred years - much of the France we see today and the European Union we see today was moulded for good or ill by Mitterand.Philip Short is extremely knowledgeable about Mitterands background , his complicated private life ,including his relationship with his wife Danielle and his long term mistress Anne Pingeot.
Short also deals with Mitterands extensive literary interests and his complex spiritual beliefs.
The real guts of the book ,however is French and EU politics.We see how Mitterand revived the moribund French Socialist Party ,allied with the Communists and then pushed them aside to take power in 1981 as the first Socialist President of the 5TH Republic.His long term as President is examined and his successes and failures analysed.Short also shows how Mitterands suspicion of a united Germany led Mitterand to believe that the new Germany must be firmly anchored in a united Europe and the best way to do this was with the common currency -the "Euro".
Mitterand gave a higher priority to politics here than to economics.We also see Mitterands relationship with other European leaders such as Schmidt and Kohl in Germany and Mrs. Thatcher in the UK.
Short recounts in detail Mitterands 15 year battle with prostate cancer (which had killed his father).Most of this Mitterand kept secret for nearly all his Presidential term.
Shorts style is elegant and readable and Mitterands seems to wlk alive again through the pages of this book. Really one can ask no more of any biography.Only two small factual errors mar the book very slightly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Slow Lorris on 17 Jan. 2014
Format: Hardcover
This really is exceptionally well done. I had been intrigued by several good newspaper reviews but am no expert on French politics, so the question for me was: could an intelligent, general reader with no background in the subject tackle what is a massive 600 page biography? I'm pleased to say the answer is a resounding "yes". Philip Short writes very fluently, which carried me through the more challenging passages, and has a good eye for anecdote and pacing a story. The book begins with an account of the Observatory Affair, an apparent assassination attempt on Mitterrand on the streets of Paris, and after that I was gripped.
I don't know how this biography fits into the vast French scholarship on Mitterrand but there is very little of any substance published about him in English. So it is very welcome. It feels a very fair account and the author has persuaded several new sources to talk.
Be warned, though, that it is very detailed, chock-full of minor French political figures and, seemingly, an acronym on every page (there's a helpful glossary of these at the back). After making slow initial progress, I decided to stop looking-up people and acronyms, and instead put my head down and kept reading. That worked well for me as a strategy so might be worth bearing in mind if you pick up the book. Which you certainly should.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Dr. R. Brandon TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 12 Jun. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I find it difficult to reasonably rate this book. It is clearly well written and is obviously the result of prodigious research and scholarship, particularly of French sources. It is also a very comprehensive review of the life and political career of an important French statesman who was President of France for an unprecedented fourteen years and whose crowning achievements may be listed as abolition of the death penalty and the design and agreement of the Maastricht Treaty of 1991 which established the single currency and set Europe on the road to “ever closer union”. (Many of Mitterrand’s other changes such as nationalisation and alteration of the laws regarding methods of voting were ephemeral and quickly reversed.) The author, Philip Short, weighs up the evidence of Mitterrand’s involvement with the Vichy Government and his opportunistic subsequent association with repatriated POWs and the Resistance movement and, perhaps, gives a rather generous overall appraisal of Mitterrand’s wartime career. Again, the author does not flinch from examining the parallel family life lived by Mitterrand having a wife and children and a long term mistress and illegitimate daughter, and numerous other liaisons although these are generally passed over.
So far, so good, however, we have to plough through 312 pages of the 582 pages of text before we reach Mitterrand’s election as President in May 1981. This, despite the examination of the Vichy years, can make for very tedious reading at times as Mitterrand was essentially a “committee” man whose career seems to have been one of endless meetings and networking which does not make for very interesting reading unless you are a really diehard political analyst.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 19 Jan. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a well researched piece of work that really engages, even though it's rather long. I didn't know much about the subject, save that he'd been President of France, and this book filled all the gaps in my knowledge. Mitterand was a complex, enigmatic character with a strong personality who was centre stage in European politics. His personal life was just as complex and secretive. The author writes with authority and effortlessly succeeds in bringing the reader into the world of Mitterand and murky French politics without labouring the point.
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