No leader of modern times was more uniquely national than Charles de Gaulle. In his twenties, he fought for France in the trenches and at the epic battle of Verdun. In the 1930s, he waged a lonely battle to enable France better to resist Hitler’s Germany. Thereafter, he twice rescued the nation from defeat and decline by extraordinary displays of leadership, political acumen, daring, and bluff, heading off civil war and leaving a heritage adopted by his successors of right and left. Le Général, 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.
This is a “monumental,” “thorough,” and “enjoyable” biography (Financial Times) 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, the first major work on de Gaulle in fifteen years “tracks the great man’s career with journalistic industry” (Wall Street Journal), bringing alive as never before the private man as well as the public leader.