THE GENERAL by Jonathan Fenby


Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved
Age Range: 1890 - 1970
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A keen biography conveying the French general’s driving sense of destiny. 

Considered by the French to be the greatest French figure since Napoleon (“a monument carved out of some ancient rock, above and beyond ordinary beings”), Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970) certainly fashioned the idea of modern republican France, in spite of his own conflicted, fickle citoyens. Fenby (France On the Brink: A Great Civilization Faces a New Century, 2011, etc.) provides a welcome entry point for American readers. De Gaulle first appeared on the world stage during the fraught days of June 1940. The relatively unknown, newly appointed French general and deputy defense minister forged with Churchill an extraordinary last-ditch effort at saving the country from the Nazi onslaught through a Franco-British union. The author renders these first days of the war in a diary format, conveying the incredible suspense and uncertainty of the outcome. A devoted husband and father, economical and disciplined, with a face that Fenby curiously compares to an elephant’s, de Gaulle was a decorated World War I hero whose large stature portended his symbolic role as France’s savior. Supercilious but never elitist and a staunch defender of France’s national interests, de Gaulle had to wait another 12 years after his 1946 resignation for his next galvanizing moment amid the Algerian war crisis that was tearing the country apart. Fenby does an excellent job portraying the general as a truly larger-than-life, uncompromising and incomparable character who acted as his country’s conscience and rudder.

With a nod to previous (French) studies by Jean Lacouture, Eric Roussel, Alain Peyrefitte, as well as the general’s own extensive memoirs, this work is astute and psychologically probing.

Pub Date: July 7th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61608-600-8
Page count: 736pp
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2012


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