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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very impressive
Coming from a partly French background, I have some indirect knowledge of the period and the difficulties faced by some members of my family; the problem with biographies of De Gaulle has been the fact that many have been uncritical hagiographies on the one hand or overly critical ones on the other; this work strikes an impressive middle-ground in that De Gaulle's...
Published on 15 Aug 2011 by Richard Sewell

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great biography. Of a Great Man?
This wonderfully written biography begins with Colonel (recently promoted General) de Gaulle's finest hour: his escape to Britain at the Fall of France in 1940. After that, apart from one lapse into psycho-gobble-de-gook ("constructive narcissism") Fenby tells the tale of the life straight, from his origins to his death, and lets events speak for themselves...
Published 24 months ago by James-philip Harries


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very impressive, 15 Aug 2011
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Coming from a partly French background, I have some indirect knowledge of the period and the difficulties faced by some members of my family; the problem with biographies of De Gaulle has been the fact that many have been uncritical hagiographies on the one hand or overly critical ones on the other; this work strikes an impressive middle-ground in that De Gaulle's personal idiosyncrasies and difficult character are not downplayed, but are also given their proper context, and this is where the book shines in my opinion. The complexities of the situation facing the Free French (unlike all other occupied countries, the French had the added problem that they were fighting their own legitimate government) are expressed clearly and in detail. There is a very clear picture created of a complex and not always attractive personality who nevertheless earned respect for the fact that he set high standards for himself as well as others. It is a relevant question to ask whether anyone else could have stepped up to the mark and taken on the mantle of his country's battered reputation, but "cometh the hour, cometh the man". A thorough exposé, evidence of meticulous research and an objective, yet respectful tone - Jonathan Fenby's clarity and writing style are also big plusses.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb study and a great read., 3 Aug 2010
Written by an acknowledged expert at the art of writing biography, the book combines effortless detialed awareness not only of de Gaulle and the milieu that nourished him, with a style of writing that is accessible without being condescending to the less well informed reader.

Mr Fenby also has the art of making the hero seem somewhat more human, likeable and indeed accessible than I would have thought possible for such a weighty tome. For anyone who, like me, has had a love affair with France over my adult years and still secretly admires their determination to create laws and never then keep them, this book will also offer some fascinating insights into the way that the myth and the reality that is both de Gaulle and the idea of serious resistance to Nazi occupation, and to the new spirit that emerged from the war, and gave rise to 'les trentes glorieuses' ... the thirty post war years that saw the transformation of France from a backwater of agricultural dependence into one of the major industrial powers of the EU... a process in which de Gaulle was central, whether in power or out of it. In all a great read and a wonderful study of a giant of the modern world.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb, Well Written, Triumph, 2 Jan 2011
An outstanding biography of one of the great figures of 20th Century history. I hesitated before embarking on this substantial tome. Broadly aware of DeGaulle's place and role in the scheme of things, I struggled to imagine that a comprehensive biography would hold my interest, I was wrong.

That it did is down to the consummate writing skills of author Jonathan Fenby. An acknowledged authority on France in general. and DeGaulle in particular, Fenby's obvious enthusiasm for his subject oozes out of the text in an account authoritatively, but lightly told, account. Anecdote and vignettes, of which there are many always entertain, never distract and always compliment the narrative.

The Free French years and Algerian Crisis are covered triumphantly, but Fenby's skill is that he is as comfortable with his grasp of geo-political intrigue as he is with DeGaulle's love for his handicapped daughter. By common consent a difficult and infuriating man his unequal struggle with an exasperated Roosevelt is painfully recounted, as is his love hate relationship with Churchill.

The conflicts integral within a man who believed himself to be the saviour of his own vision of France, who nonetheless had to trim and negotiate and come to terms with a country marginalised by the outcome of the second world war are brilliantly exposed. The result is not only a definitive document of DeGaulle's life, but a fine example of how good biography should be written. Detail is always given for a purpose, and within context, not to impress the reader.

Not only is this essential reading for those interested in the man, it is also a vital and fresh insight into France's role in the Second World War. The Vichy regime is covered from inception to fall, the Free French from cradle to triumph. DeGaulles struggle to reassert French pride post war is painful in parts, embodied by Colonial decline and the Algerian Crisis. The only minor disappointment is that DeGaulles lack of involvement means that the Vietnam War does not get the time that I am sure Fenby would have liked to devote to it.

Buy , read and enjoy.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars L'etat - c'est moi, 20 Sep 2010
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Withnail67 (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
I've been looking forward to reading this biography for some time, and it really did not disappoint. I remember father reading the Jean Lacouture biography of De Gaulle back in the 1980s, the hefty two-volume publication, so I jumped at the chance of reading a life of De Gaulle in less than 700 pages. This really must be the standard English language life of the most important 20th century Frenchman. Jonathan Fenby has impeccable credentials as a commentator on French politics, history and culture. I really enjoyed his book On the Brink which exposed the crisis in French politics in the 1990s. But this book is really the crowning product of a career as a commentator on France. De Gaulle himself was contrary and exasperating figure to some British observers and most British readers will be most compelled by his relationship with Winston Churchill during the darkest days of the Second World War. This the biography opens dramatically with the key moment of De Gaulle's departure for London in June 1940.

At various key points in the biography then be goes down to a calendar of events over days sometimes even hours and this adds a dramatic power for sense of the sequence of events great leaders have to respond to. Especially fascinating is the family background of De Gaulle: the hyper conservative family from Lille, the Manchester of France, the distant Scottish and Irish ancestry, the strong Catholic and tacitly monarchist sentiments of his father all contributed to his unique make-up and potent sense of national destiny. There is a strong sense of De Gaulle being shaped by the events of 1914 to 1918, an experience he had in common with his contemporaries from Churchill to Hitler. While the departure to London 1940 is powerfully envisaged, equally stirring and frightening is the description of the Algeria crisis of the late 1950s and early 1960s, which took France to the brink of civil war.

The book is handsomely produced; I enjoyed the striking cover with the general's kepi acting as a symbol for his keenly felt sense of duty. The photographs are evocative, and as one previous reviewer indicated, especially moving is the photograph of De Gaulle with his daughter who suffered from Down's syndrome. De Gaulle is a life spanned the end of the 19th century to the 1970s and reading this very fine biography one is left with a powerful sense of a man who for all his failings and idiosyncrasies, embodied his nation's sense of selfhood during a key period in its history.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly impressive, 1 July 2010
A thoroughly impressive piece of work and the most comprehensive biography of de Gaulle I have come across in the English language. It is elegantly written, authoritative, reliable and very perceptive. I was also very moved to read about his personal life and the profound relationship he had with his daughter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 4 Dec 2011
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A phenomenal tour de force which despite the astonishing detail, rattles along apace.
This book not only provides a tremendous insight into a unique figure of the twentieth century but also provides a comprehensive account of French history over the period of his lifetime.
A book you will be compelled to return to, again & again offering a unique understanding of the times & events.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative and compelling biography of one of the last century's commanding personalities, 14 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved (Kindle Edition)
Detailed in his research and comprehensive in his choice of source material, Jonathan Fenby manages nonetheless to create an engaging narrative of the life of de Gaulle. Who knew, for instance, that this most dignified of public figures could be so catty in private; or that the man whose precise and allusive French was so much a feature of his speeches could equally employ the roughest of barracks language in front of his retinue? This fine biography creates a vivid sense of the man, but in so doing provides an excellent socio-political history of 20th century France. This is perhaps fitting, given that the General saw himself as the living embodiment of his nation.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, superbly written, 5 Jan 2014
By 
Joan Cecil (Gloucestershire UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved (Kindle Edition)
This comprehensive study of de Gaulle is an excellent read,and moves along at a good pace. Whatever your own opinion of the man, this book has something for you, it covers his life and career thoroughly and gives an insight into the man behind the public General. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unforgettable and exceptional hero, 20 Nov 2013
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This is a highly readable account of an unforgettable and exceptional hero with dictatorial tendencies and political savvy who twice forced his way into the pages of history when his country came off the rails. He did so despite overwhelming adversity - either from his own bankrollers during WW2, or many of his own people in 1958, and bravely took on the dangerous frictions over the de-colonisation of Algeria. He was clearly a pain to deal with and predictably unpredictable. His stubborn nature and tendency to grandstand remain a recognisable national trait as much as his tendency to spot adversaries among all those around him. He was exceptional in so strongly believing in his mission and sticking to it, keeping above the fray, and avoiding enriching himself in the process. His personal credentials were further strengthened by the devotion of his wife and his own devotion to his stricken daughter Anne. Towards the end of such biographies one tends to accelerate, but Jonathan Fenby's account of de Gaulle's fall from power and death leave a long-lasting emotional trace like no other book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed, readable and wide-ranging, 21 Jun 2013
By 
M. V. Clarke (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The General: Charles De Gaulle and the France He Saved (Kindle Edition)
This is an excellent biography of De Gaulle, which sets his life, career, personality and achievements in their social and political contexts. It's a fascinating perspective on modern French history too, examining France's role in both world wars, and its subsequent place in Europe. The presentation of De Gaulle is very thorough, and assesses him very fairly. The insights into his sense of personal destiny, attitude to party politics, and sense of his own worth are especially valuable. A remarkable book about one of the twentieth century's most remarkable figures.
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