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The General: Charles De Gaulle And The France He Saved
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The General: Charles De Gaulle And The France He Saved

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  399 ratings  ·  58 reviews
This is a magisterial, sweeping biography of one of the great leaders of the 20th century - General Charles De Gaulle.
Hardcover, 707 pages
Published December 13th 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published January 1st 2010)
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3.86  · 
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 ·  399 ratings  ·  58 reviews

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Mikey B.
This is a magnificent biography of Charles De Gaulle. There are many aspects that stand out about this man.

First and foremost is that when De Gaulle stepped off the plane in England in June, 1940 he was 49 years old. If he would have died then and there he would have been a minor footnote in French history. As it is, he played a compelling role in 20th century history for the next 30 years.

De Gaulle single-handedly took charge of French resistance and started the planning of a new French govern
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved” by Jonathan Fenby is a 2012 biography of de Gaulle. It was entertaining, in-depth, well-researched, and flashed a not-always-kind light on The General. Now whether one thinks highly or poorly of de Gaulle is another matter. Reading this biography portrays many of the stereotypes associated with de Gaulle. He was pompous, larger-than-life, heroic, aristocratic, aloof, controlling, messianic, and autocratic. Yet no one can claim he didn’t pu ...more
This book seems to be the closest thing to a good biography of DeGaulle that exists in English, but that's really not saying much. I believe the definitive biography of De Gaulle in English has not been written, because the translation of Jean Lacouture's French language version has many flaws, chief among them that Lacouture was writing for a French audience, so he assumed on the part of his readers a lot of knowledge of French politics and recent events. A reasonable assumption for educated Fr ...more
Jun 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What a man, what a book. Perhaps lexicon or Some list of his recurring ministers would be handy
This is a perfectly adequate and workman like biography of De Gaulle. While comprehensive, I never really got a good sense of either him or "the France he saved". Why exactly is he to be regarded as a Great Man, again? While he had some considerable political skill and luck, it was never really made clear the real impact of his presidency or how his leadership saved or shaped his country in any meaningful way. The author did describe various initiatives to enhance France's role as a major player ...more
Elizabeth Theiss
The best biographers develop a deep empathy for their subjects that allow the writer to judiciously illuminate the best and worst of their characters. The result is a work that allows us to understand deeply what animates a person's ideas and motivates their actions. Fenby does not manage to accomplish this in his somewhat mean portrayal of Charles DeGaulle. In Fenby's defense, DeGaulle is not a very sympathetic character. He conflates France's glory with his own. On the other hand, he is arguab ...more
Nov 18, 2016 added it
Excellent biography of a man who loved France. I was reminded of the tumultuous politics of France in the 1960s and 1970s.
Charles De Gaulle (1890-1970) was a French army officer, resistance leader, politician, and even statesman. Born into a conservative Catholic family which was politically estranged from the secular Third Republic, De Gaulle had a Catholic education before entering the military academy. He was wounded (more than once, I think), during the First World War and captured by the Germans, making several unsuccessful attempts to escape from prisoner-of-war camps. He married in the 1920s, and had 3 child ...more
Nov 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So much to say about this book. I’ve given it a few days and I’m not sure that I feel like I will do a good job speaking about the subject of De Gaulle. Truly, one of the more interesting figures in the twentieth century. One could, and I’m sure many have run out of adjectives to describe him. Patriotic, Nationalistic, Religious, Demagogic, Narcissistic, Stubborn, Honorable, Moralistic. What becomes clear in looking at this is that not all of these adjectives go together. This, in a nutshell, pr ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have long wanted to learn more about Charles De Gaulle and this excellent biography has proved ideal for this purpose. Clearly and lucidly written, it projects the majesty and significance of its subject without ever becoming too difficult to read. Recommended as both a stand-alone work and as a basis for further reading and study.
Richard Kirkner
Closer to Churchill and Roosevelt than Petian and Chamberlain, although the former two detested him (and he reciprocated). What's most remarkable besides his leading the resistance to Vichy during WWII was his overseeing the modernization of France—its industry, infrastructure, university system, self-determination, government. Dude had an ego, though. Saw himself as France and France as him. But without him, France might not be the major power it is today. Tried to school Eisenhower, Kennedy an ...more
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this having always had oddly little sense of even the basics of de Gaulle’s life and how he impacted French and European politics. It’s a very comprehensive read which places him in context, while also letting his personality and actions speak for themselves. Where it falls down slightly is at key junctures of his life - in 1940, 1958 and 1968- when it turns consciously into a day-by-day chronology which misses the broad sweep of events. It’s not for people who just want a sense of the ma ...more
Richard Smith
Feb 19, 2014 rated it liked it
De Gaulle must have been one of the mots extraordinary men who has ever lived. His conviction that he was France. like a medieval king, could have seemed pathological but allowed him to "save" France not once but twice. His love of France was the defining passion of his life, yet he was repeatedly disappointed by the French.
Aug 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Others have described this book, so I won't repeat what they wrote. I found it informative but boring and had trouble keeping track of the many cast of characters. To be sure this was a historical book, but there are histories and there are histories. Some historians, like Timothy Snyder, make history come to life. Some do not. Fenby does not.
Sissel Bagge
Feb 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great book. Not a particularly likeable personality to portray.
Oct 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Dense and detailed but a still readable biography. Explains how De Gaulle's dictatorial tendencies were mitigated by his strong sense that he served France and not the other way around.
Anthony Nelson
Jan 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
An intimate portrait of a towering figure. The book makes a fantastic case that those who discount the "great man" theory of history should consider 20th century France without Charles de Gaulle.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I can’t ever recall reading a book that started out so promising, so enrapturing, and yet by the midway point, turned into a disappointing thud of a clunker. It might be a tad unfair to blame this sudden reversal of fortune on the author. Instead, one might concede that the life of the subject matter just became uninteresting as did the events that surrounded him at a certain point. Still, one wishes that the author may have realized this as well, and therefore had handled the latter half of th ...more
Apr 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have for years been interested in reading a biography of the general. This work greatly diminishes whatever respect I had for the general. De Gaulle had an excellent Catholic upbringing. To his credit he practiced his faith for the duration of his life and was an excellent father. He had a daughter who was mentally retarded and he was very kind to her.
I consider myself a Francophile, however De Gaulle simply went way over the top with a type of Gallicanism. In a word, De Gaulle in matters Fre
Jan 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I want to love the French - I really do. In an effort to see all sides of the WWII post war realities I realized I had left out the French. Give General De Gaulle a chance I said... the book lays out clearly that De Gaulle was, at a minimum, highly egotistical and self centered. The book flows well but, unfortunately, you can’t make a great story about someone that was, frankly, not that great.
Feb 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Magnificent biography of the man who reminded us that history is shaped in part by great men. I've now finished it for the third time and will read it again -- there are always new insights to be found
Brian Mandel
Jul 16, 2017 rated it liked it
This is unquestionably a highly informative book, but unfortunately gets bogged down into small details while often leaving out parts of the big interest. I wish that Fenby had given larger context for the events that he describes rather than list off seemingly interchangeable cabinet Ministers.
Sergio Posada
May 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book for those interested in world and frech history.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
The book is a 707 page paean to de Gaulle that quickly becomes tiresome reading, hence the seven months it took me to finish it. In the end it was worth the labor, but labor it was.
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
We'll always have Paris
Robert Kinniburgh
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Thorough; sympathetic, but not naive.
Feb 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good overview of Charles De Gaulle. Particularly powerful at this time in our US history is the account of his resistance to those who chose to give in to the authority that Germany was exerting over France and the rest of Europe at the dawn of WWII. I was surprised that he had a daughter born with Down's Syndrome who seemed to be the light of his life. His handling of Algeria was a monumental task...very complicated given the different interest groups and the conflicts that ensued. I definitely ...more
Sep 03, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a thorough biography of DeGaulle that focuses on his time in public service, which is roughly from the invasion of France in 1940 to his death in 1970. The story was engaging, especially in how this fairly odd and even reclusive individual could come to embody the French nation, recraft the French state and save France from disaster in the Algerian crisis.

The style is easy enough to read but the story is a long one and the book seems a bit too episodic at times. I had the additional prob
Jun 20, 2015 rated it liked it
From a throw-away George Carlin joke on an album recorded in the early 70's, I've always wanted to know more about the force that was Charles De Gaulle. Fast forward 40 years and I finally decided it was the right time for me, and this, the right book. Excellent historical accounting of a man who demanded to be allowed greatness. I have to grudgingly admire all he was able to accomplish through the sheer force of his personality, and his focus on keeping France important on the world stage.

Oct 13, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a long, informative, and rather sympathetic biography of Charles De Gaulle written by a noted British journalist who worked for many years in France. The book provides a comprehensive view of de Gaulle's life and is especially strong in its coverage of his early life and role as the leader of the Free French(a role de Gaulle essentially assumed by his own force of personality). Unfortunately, the book is very uneven in its treatment of events after the war, especially when it comes to th ...more
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Jonathan Fenby, CBE, has been the editor of The Observer and the South China Morning Post. He is currently China Director at the research service Trusted Sources.
“I respect only those who stand up to me, but I find such people intolerable.” 1 likes
“They assure love from the beginning of life to its conclusion and, in the end, they govern our existence.” 1 likes
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