From Publishers Weekly
Berthon's narrative accompanies his forthcoming PBS telecast about Charles de Gaulle's struggles once France fell to the Nazis in 1940 to play the modern Joan of Arc. Aged 49 and a one-star general for only three weeks, he had flown to London five days before Paris was surrendered. Legally, Marshal Ptain's collaborationist regime at Vichy represented France, but de Gaulle almost singlehandedly established the exile "Free French" to continue the war from England and some of the colonies. In Berthon's view, de Gaulle had four enemies Germany, Vichy, a skeptical Churchill and a hostile Roosevelt. This hostility, fed by at best half-truths from Roosevelt's rightist links to Ptain ambassador Admiral Leahy, State Department adviser Charles Murphy and Secretary of State Cordell Hull more than by Churchill, shackled and even undermined de Gaulle. Berthon describes vividly the wartime climate of duplicity and distrust: Churchill tried to "straddle the two Frances"; de Gaulle compensated for his powerlessness with haughty pride; Roosevelt (for whom "France had lost all right to...respect by her abject failure in 1940") excluded de Gaulle from all decisions affecting France. Relations worsened in victory, when the French embraced de Gaulle and reality forced British/U.S. recognition of his legitimacy. In Berthon's opinion, Churchill equivocated, and U.S. players were villainous. Though he makes little of de Gaulle's postwar promotion of the myth of mass French resistance to fascism, his wartime de Gaulle is convincingly heroic. None of the three leaders comes off well which may give the book a controversial edge. 8 pages of b&w illus. (Oct.)Forecast: The three-part TV series is scheduled to run in 2002; in the meantime, the book is a History Book Club selection and should have broad appeal to readers of WWII titles.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Berthon's fascinating account of the relationship among Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Charles de Gaulle accompanies this fall's three-part BBC/PBS series Allies at War. Series producer Berthon shows that each had far from absolutely positive feelings about the others and that while the relationships changed over time, they were hardly the picture of mutual support one might expect from Allied leaders fighting the Axis. The troubled relationships stemmed from the three leaders' different politics, goals, and personalities. The fall of France produced the rise of Charles de Gaulle, whom FDR never took seriously until the very end of the war. Churchill, who initially admired de Gaulle, was trapped by his dependence on FDR into undermining the French. Churchill is presented as a source of good advice, but FDR often received far from good advice. In some ways, de Gaulle emerges indirectly as the hero of this story despite his many personality flaws. Though this is not a new story, and the absence of footnotes may bother scholars, it is nonetheless a readable and captivating glimpse into the personalities and goals of the three Allied giants. Recommended for public libraries. William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.