De Gaulle

Narrated by: James Adams
Length: 41 hrs and 35 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (76 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

"The finest one-volume life of de Gaulle in English." (Richard Norton Smith, The Wall Street Journal)

In a definitive biography of the mythic general who refused to accept Nazi domination of France, Julian Jackson captures this titanic figure as never before. Drawing on unpublished letters, memoirs, and resources of the recently opened de Gaulle archive, he reveals how this volatile visionary put a broken France back at the center of world affairs.

©2018 Julian Jackson (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Extremely British approach to de Gaulle

This is a book that is in desperate need of a title clarifying its scope and purpose. It is less of a biography than a detailed look at foreign policy, militarism, and de Gaulle's quest for power. Had these goals been clearly stated from the outset I would have more positive things to say about Jackson's work, but as a full-fledged biography of Charles de Gaulle it's lacking. This is a biography with a number of strong points that are undercut by some glaring weaknesses.

Strengths:
- Lots of fascinating and granular detail surrounding de Gaulle during WWII.
- Good coverage of foreign policy, particularly issues surrounding the Algerian independence movement.
- Paints a clear portrait of de Gaulle's calculated maneuvering to attain and maintain power.

Weaknesses
- Jackson seems to only find interest in de Gaulle's career when it impacts or intersects with other nations.
- Underdeveloped sense of de Gaulle's private/family life. There are some last ditch efforts in the final chapters based on what sort of literature de Gaulle preferred, but overall Jackson fails to explain his subject.
- Coverage of the 1950s and 1960s comes at a breakneck pace in comparison to previous chapters.
- Very little consideration (and seeming understanding) of domestic issues within France. Biographies of state power figures often function as a window into that nation's collective experience. This is about as far from the case as possible here.
- This book is awkward as a standalone narrative as it lacks context and is in desperate need of reference points. I'd recommend reading Charles Sowerwine's France Since 1870 before tackling this biography as a way to fill in some of Jackson's major gaps.
- The organization of the book and general storytelling ability of Jackson leave much to be desired. I've read other books from him and he's a talented writer and historian, but the demands of a biography do not match his strengths.

A note on the narrator:
- This was a frustrating listen as James Adams arbitrarily chooses to anglicize a wide array of French names/words while giving eye-rolling French pronunciation to words that are common in English (he drops the last consonant on cabinet and baton, for example). More importantly and as stated by other reviews, Adams struggles with the pronunciation of French vowels. It's painful to hear him relaying French passages and phrases. Sometimes they're nearly incomprehensible.

6 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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A Masterly Study

This is a long book at 928 pages or 41 hours and 35 minutes in audiobook format. Julian Jackson covers De Gaulle from childhood to death. The book is well written and meticulously researched. I have read a lot of books about World War I, but I do not recall any author mentioning the role De Gaulle played in the Great War. Jackson covers in detail De Gaulle’s role as a lieutenant in the WWI.

Jackson appears to have done a good job in writing an unbiased biography of De Gaulle. The author covers in-depth De Gaulle’s role in World War II. I must admit that when I started reading this book most of my knowledge about De Gaulle was based on my readings by Churchill and Eisenhower. It was good to obtain an unbiased viewpoint of De Gaulle. I learned about his role in WWII and as president of France. I still do not have a high opinion of him. One of his comments I cannot seem to get out of my mind is as follows: “It is not the role of government to obtain proposals or seek consensus but to give orders”. That statement seems to really bother me. I also noted he tried to do away with political parties but was unsuccessful.

I enjoyed the book and learning about De Gaulle and also about the civil war with Algeria that De Gaulle triggered. If you are interested in De Gaulle or French history, you should give the book a try.

Julian Jackson is a British historian. James Adams does a good job narrating the book. I enjoyed his British accent. Adams is a British audiobook narrator who now lives in the United States.

11 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Comprehensive with all the drawbacks

This biography is an admirable work of scholarship, but most will find its voluminous details of De Gaulle‘s life tedious.
The author is confident De Gaulle was a great man. Having listened for 41 hours, I am unpersuaded.
The case for the General is that he ”saved France’s honor,” as Mr. Jackson puts it. A fairer epitaph would be that De Gaulle wove a fig leaf behind which the French could crouch for decades and avoid confronting the truth about WWII and the occupation.
The account of the student uprisings in May 1968 is well done. Those days had the General with packed bags, ready for exile.
Ultimately, De Gaulle’s story has a tragic quality. His vision of France was unsuited to its capabilities. As a result, so much of his maneuvering and posturing has the character of shadow boxing.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A very important history of Degaulle

I confess rhat I knew little of DeGaulle before listening to Jacksom' history. Degaulle remains a complex man of the 19th century who left an indelible imprint on modern France. He is, above all, a portrait of France in the 20th century.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Good book

Well written book about a great and very complex man. I think he deserves to be ranked with Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin. I include Stalin only for his role in shaping the 20th century, not for the crimes against humanity he committed. Dr Gaulle was a brilliant man, I kept thinking of the term Aspergers all thru the book. Whatever; it was extremely interesting and well read.

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Fantastique!

A fitting tribute to the man who saved the honor of France. Vive la République! Vive la France!

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Great biography

De Gaulle is one of the most interesting and strange persons from the 20th century, and doubtless the most important Frenchman in the last two centuries.

This is an excellent book (provided you're the type interesting in 40 hour long biographies) and the reader is the best there is.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Commenting only on the reading

It’s so distracting to have a narrator who is so clueless as to much French pronunciation. The producer seems to have assumed that because Mr. Adams has down the difficult French “r,” he was up to the task. He mangles most vowels. He has a wonderful voice and would be fabulous narrating, say, Dickens or Trollope.

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A perceptive portrait of the Last Great Frenchman

This excellent book offers a full warts and all look at de Gaulle. The book’s power comes from the way Jackson offers just enough background for the non specialist to understand the basis for the judgments he renders regularly on his subject and on the people and situations with which he dealt. I was regularly surprised by the many 20th Century episodes where de Gaulle was present and by Jackson’s ability to show how de Gaulle had a good reason for being such a tremendous pain in the...neck. It’s a long listen but very much worth the effort required to complete.

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A Fascinating History

A detailed history marred by the reprehensible accent of its reader. A francophone narrator for a biography of General de Gaulle might seem an obvious creative choice. However, someone decided this was a bad idea.