On one level, this biography of Charles de Gaulle is excellent. It is well-written, interesting and shows good judgement on an enigmatic character. I greatly enjoyed most aspects of the book.
It is very, very comprehensive.
At another level, it is far, far too comprehensive. It could have been edited down to half and the result would have been a much better book. And, mostly importantly, I would have been able to hold the book easily without straining my wrists. The author is being self-indulgent in producing a 900-page book. If he really had had enough content to justify 900 pages, then two volumes would have been fine. But he didn't...
Some minor points: writing "Mitterrand hates de Gaulle" is sloppy. and does he really have to keep repeating this phase? There are a number of other unnecessary replications.
But they are minor. This book has the makings of a superb biography. If you are young, patient, strong and have good eyesight, you'll enjoy the book immensely. If not, you'll still enjoy it but you risk being somewhat irritated--and very tired by the end.
This is one of the best biographies I have read for a long time. I imagined that 777 pages of de Gaulle would be daunting however dominant the personality. in fact it is written with fluency and immense scholarship and really is a page-turner. De Gaulle was an extraordinarily enigmatic and elusive character - deliberately engineered- and this book manages to de-mythologise whilst explaining and understanding the myth!
What is a truly great man? The ambitions of Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin and Mao were built of the sacrifice of millions of people. And with pitifully little to show in the aftermath. The ambition of Charles de Gaulle was just to rescue his homeland France from its shattering moral and military collapse in 1940 to its present restored eminence by the time of his voluntary retirement in 1969. The steady decline of France from Napoleonic glory to the decadent surrender of Petain and Vichy stimulated de Gaulle, a minor General, to take refuge in London and, with just a few supporters, to emerge in 1944 as the undisputed personification of France. How did he do it? This portrait of his bloody - minded, intransigent and at times self-defeating promotion of France as a great nation is fascinating and very well written. He towered like the vast granite dolmen that he physically resembled over his contemporaries and, by the end, succeeded in establishing the 5th Republic (which endures), freeing Algeria and rebutting communism. When he died, even his most committed adversaries mourned a titanic hero of France. Fascinating.
This is more than a biography of Charles de Gaulle, it's an essay describing the ides of France. Jackson is a great stylist and, surprisingly, more funny than his pompous and austere hero. I wrote a bio aged 10 in a Britain school and no-one really understood how 'le grand Charles' created new France. Jackson tells us about the clothes, kepis, bad food ,argot (often about of the French army) and the stupidity of people around him, and some of the geniuses around him. Jackson is stupendously understanding about Marshal Petain and the conspirators created the Algeria France. The most dilemma comes through of de Gaulle's dislike about democracy. He wasn't a dictator, he didn't like fascism. He loved France. He wasn't anti-semite despite the views of military men. He had no interest in the beau monde. Among the cavalcade of Gaullists and hero lovers, Yvonne is a remarkable subject. She was prudish and and, like Charles, kept their daughter from world. I read this vast book in France by a pool. This is one of the best biography of de Gaulle and one of the book of the last century. I would love to tell other readers that you have to love the best France - and too the best of Charles de Gaulle. You will understood why he believed in France. Yes his ideas about Britain an d the United States were silly. But many of his apercus are worthwhile. How he would have hated the world we live now.