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Summary

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of A Certain Idea of France by Julian Jackson, read by John Banks.

In six weeks in 1940, France was overrun by German troops and surrendered. One junior French general, refusing to accept defeat, made his way to England. On 18 June he spoke to his compatriots over the BBC, urging them to rally to him in London. At that moment, Charles de Gaulle entered into history.

For the rest of the war, de Gaulle frequently bit the hand that fed him. He insisted on being treated as the true embodiment of France, and quarrelled violently with Churchill and Roosevelt. But through sheer force of personality and bloody-mindedness he managed to have France recognised as one of the victorious Allies.

For 10 years after 1958 he was President of France's Fifth Republic, which he created and which endures to this day. His pursuit of 'a certain idea of France' challenged American hegemony, took France out of NATO and twice vetoed British entry into the European Community. His controversial decolonisation of Algeria brought France to the brink of civil war and provoked several assassination attempts.

Julian Jackson's magnificent biography reveals this the life of this titanic figure as never before. No previous biography has depicted his paradoxes so vividly. Much of French politics since his death has been about his legacy, and he remains by far the greatest French leader since Napoleon.

©2019 Julian Jackson (P)2019 Penguin Audio

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phenomenal biography of de Gaulle

detailed, thoughtful, and we'll written. well read and extraordinarily researched. highly recommended for students of history

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superb

This is a historical biography of the very highest order. Sometimes the reader's pronunciation of the French words is confusing but perfect is the enemy of good.

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Superb

A true hero of France , idiosyncratic yet resolute in his convictions to the end .
Excellent narration

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Extraordinary book...needs a narrator who knows French

This is a genuinely monumental book and the definitive biography of de Gaulle in any language, including French. It has indeed been recognised as such even in France, usually scathing of foreigners interpreting their national symbol. But a narrator should have been chosen who spoke French or checked pronunciation: half the proper nouns are terribly mangled. E.g it is Edgard Faure, no accent on the last e (not like the composer), the Duc d’Enghein, hard g not like engine, and so on for hundreds of characters and places. But do buy this great book.

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  • AZ
  • 10-10-20

A masterpiece

Thrilling account of the life and time of De Gaulle. Brilliantly written and read and difficult to put down.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-07-21

Engaging Narrative Biography of a man embodying “Gradure”

The narrator was excellent with perfect french pronunciation. De Gaulle’s life and bombastic presence on the world stage makes for a fascinating story. Well researched and neutral.

1 person found this helpful

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  • M
  • 13-05-21

Outstanding biography, awful pronunciation

Excellent dissection of De Gaulle's personality and deep understanding of the wider context although in my opinion the book would have benefited from being a bit shorter.
Julian Jackson shows De Gaulle's theatrical and almost grotesque pride and prickliness was real but he made a srewd use of brinkmanship and was ready to back down when necessary. Still, his ingratitude to the Allies and later his meanness to the US and Britain is shocking. His extreme awkwardness in his early career gave way to a more self-assured stance and there is an element of mischievous fun in his brutality which somehow makes it less odious. His oratory and litterary style, while often vague and opaque, was clearly outstanding.
Unfortunately the reader mispronounces half the French names he comes across, sometimes beyond recognition. This became so annoying that I switched to the excellent French version of the book, also available on Audible.

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  • MarkK
  • 25-09-20

Couldn't get into it

The subject matter should be compelling and riveting, but I just couldn't get into it. The narration was great. But there are just some audiobooks you lose concentration on and this was one of them. I suspect it was because most of the story (I got about halfway) was about back-room politics and shenanigans, and not the real center of power during WWII and the inter-war years.

I'm sure people will love this, I just couldn't stick with it.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-10-21

This book will help you understand modern France

Terrific book. The narrative is we structured and the content is well researched. The narrator has a great voice although he occasionally has trouble with certain French pronunciations. Although it’s a long book, it helps illuminate much of modern France and it’s institutions through the person of General De Gaulle. If you enjoy history or biography, this is a book for you!

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  • Nicolai Kjær
  • 24-09-21

Excellent and thorough tour de Force of de Gaulle

It is by far one of the best biographies of de Gaulle. A very interesting walk through his life and career. I knew a lot about de Gaulle during the war but found it interesting to know more of him “ruling” France in the 60s.