No leader of modern times was more unique and more uniquely national than Charles de Gaulle. As founder and first President of the Fifth Republic, General de Gaulle saw himself 'carrying France on my shoulders'.
When he first emerged on to the world stage in 1940, his insistence that he spoke for his nation might well have appeared impossibly arrogant for a recently promoted junior general who had never been elected to anything. But he personified many of the traits of his country which fascinate the rest of the world - its pride in itself, its intransigence, its historical and cultural heritage and its quasi-religious belief in the state.
Le Genéral, as he became known from 1940 on, appeared as if carved from a single monumental block, but was, in fact, extremely complex, a man with deep personal feelings and recurrent mood swings, devoted to his family and often seeking reassurance from those around him. Though insisting on discipline and loyalty from others, he was a great rebel. A grand visionary with a vast geo-political grasp and elephantine memory, he was also a supreme tactician with a taste for secrecy and the ability to out-flank opponents.
This is a magisterial, sweeping biography of one of the great leaders of the twentieth century and of the country with which he so identified himself. Written with terrific verve and narrative skill, and yet rigorous and detailed, it brings alive as never before the private man as well as the public leader through exhaustive research and astute analysis.
Jonathan Fenby is a former editor of the OBSERVER and of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. He is the author of several books including the acclaimed ON THE BRINK: THE TROUBLE WITH FRANCE and GENERALISSIMO: CHIANG KAI-SHEK AND THE CHINA HE LOST.
'Skilful and subtle ... brilliant' Douglas Hurd, Daily Telegraph 'A fine book' Ben Macintyre, the Times 'The best English-language biography of de Gaulle' --Scotsman 'Finely nuanced and highly readable ... President Sarkozy has much to learn from this tale' --Andrew Hussey, Observer 'Most readable and sensible judgments' --Max Hastings, Sunday Times 'Monumental ... most enjoyable' --Don Morrison, Financial Times 'Magisterial' Economist 'A compelling portrait' Literary Review 'A compelling portrait' Literary Review July Issue 'Skilful and subtle ... brilliant' Douglas Hurd, Daily Telegraph 'A fine book' Ben Macintyre, the Times 'The best English-language biography of de Gaulle' Scotsman 'Magisterial' Economist 'Finely nuanced and highly readable ... President Sarkozy has much to learn from this tale' Andrew Hussey, Observer 'Most readable and sensible judgments' Max Hastings, Sunday Times 'Monumental ... most enjoyable' Don Morrison, Financial Times "Beautifully written, and based on exhaustive reading..." New Statesman: 26th July 2010 "Fenby is superlatively good at turning a mass of facts into a clear, well-paced narrative that will be immediately accessible to readers" Times Higher Education: 29th July 2010 " The most thorough and the most enjoyable since France's Jean Lacouture." Financial Times 26/06/10 "Fenby is able to write about French political culture from the inside and the De Gaulle he portrays escapes easy classification" The Observer 27th June 2010 "Sympathetic but objective and detailed" Morning Star: 14th July 2010 "Fenby tells his remarkable story quite admirably in a fast-moving narrative that is nevertheless detailed and always, I think, fair to both De Gaulle and to this enemies" The Scotsman: 19th June 2010 'This biography by former Observer editor paints a memorable picture of a complex, highly-strung man whose lofty public images belied his inner torments.' Press Association 'Highly readable' Catholic Herald 23/07 'This astute biogrpahy gets to the heart of a French enigma' Lancashire Evening Post 10/07 'Beautifully written, and based on exhaustive reading' New Statesman 26/7 'Fenby is superlatively good at turning a mass of facts into a clear, well-paced narrative that will be immediately accessible to readers' Times Higher Education 29/7 'The most thorough and the most enjoyable since France's Jean Lacouture' Financial Times 26/6 'Sympathetic but objective and detailed' Morning Star 14/7 'Fenby tells his remarkable story quite admirably in a fast-moving narrative that is nevertheless detailed and always, I think, fair to both De Gaulle and to this enemies' The Scotsman 19/7 'This biography by former Observer editor paints a memorable picture of a complex, highly-strung man whose lofty public images belied his inner torments' Press Association - various 'Highly readable' Catholic Herald 23/7 'A fine journalist, he pulls together very capably the threads of wartime with an eye for telling detail and anecdote. De Gaulle has been written about many times before, but those with time in their lives for only one book about the general could happily make it this one' Lord Christopher Patten, The Spectator 31/7 'Excellent' Reader's Digest, August Issue 'Revealing...he writes movingly...gripping...It's certainly the best biography of de Gaulle to have been written in English' TLS, 3/7 'The book is pacy and readable...such a great tale deserves retelling and has not been better told in English before. One striking feature of Fenby's account is to show de Gaulle's human side, which is unfamiliar, because he kept his personal and public lives strictly separate' Guardian 7/8 'There have been many biographies of de Gaulle...but the great merit of Jonathan Fenby's book...is due not only to his scrupulous research but also that he lived in France as bureau chief for The Economist and Reuters' The Tablet 7/7 'Full, clear, French-sourced and excellent' Tribune 6/8 'How often do you re-arrange the furniture of your mind? The one made me ponder the present state, history and future of a great country' The Field September, 2010 'De Gaulle always maintained that a non-French biographer could never hope to fully understand him. This superb book has finally proved him wrong' Sunday Business Post 15/8 'The best English biography of de Gaulle' The Oldie, Autumn issue 2010