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 General, 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.
About Jonathan Fenby
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.
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. – Kirkus Reviews
Charles in Charge - ‘The General,’ a Biography of de Gaulle, by Jonathan Fenby
The New York Times Book Review – August 17, 2012 (Excerpt)
Dare I call a 707-page biography a page turner? For once, the fake enthusiasm of blurb prose rings true. I did “finish the book in one sitting,” as another chestnut has it, though the sitting was a very long flight of 16 hours. And why? Because Jonathan Fenby, a former editor of The Observer of London and a prolific author, knows how to turn breadth and depth into enthrallment. Academic historians tend to shy away from the grand sweep, while journalists like to stick to the chatty and topical. Fenby has blended the best of both crafts — the historian’s gravitas, the journalist’s feel for drama — into a magnificent book that will rank alongside a classic like Jean Lacouture’s multivolume biography of Charles de Gaulle.
Fenby actually gives us two books, masterfully intertwined, for the price of one. “The General” isn’t just the story of a 20th-century giant who captivated the public’s imagination even while he was still alive. It also traces the course of a great nation that refused to come to terms with the loss of the strategic pre-eminence it had once enjoyed. This is history with an almost literary flavor. Think of Booth Tarkington’s “Magnificent Ambersons,” which charts the waning fortunes of an aristocratic family in 19th-century America, and more particularly think of the movie that was made of it. Fenby hasn’t written a novel, but one can imagine how Orson Welles might have turned “The General” into a movie classic. Hollywood, take note. [Read the full article...]
THE BLEEDING HILLS
A Novel by Wilfried F. Voss
I have fought a good fight,
I have finished my course,
I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy iv. 7
The Irish War is officially a part of history, but not for Finnean Whelan, an IRA veteran of almost 40 years. British Intelligence has produced evidence that he is the mastermind behind a conspiracy to assassinate the First Minister of Northern Ireland. For Whelan this is not only a mission of revenge, but marks the beginning of a journey into the past and the return to the one true love: Ireland. [More...]
The Bleeding Hills is available at Amazon.Com, Amazon.co.uk, Barnes & Noble, and any other good bookstore.