by Paige Bowers
Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2017. Pp. xiv, 260.
Illus., notes, biblio., index. $26.99. ISBN: 1613736096
Geneviève de Gaulle and the French Resistance
Journalist Bowers gives us a biography, the first in English, of Geneviève (1920-2002), niece of the leader of the Free French and later President of the Republic, who also did her bit in fighting the German occupation. In researching this books, Bowers interviewed de Gaulle family members and former Resistance comrades, and was granted access to the previously unexamined papers of Geneviève de Gaulle.
Bowers opens with a look at Geneviève’s origins. Born into a firmly Catholic, bourgeois family that had sent four sons into the Great War, among them the future general, she was perhaps more aware than others of the rising threat of Nazism in the inter-war period. The main text is divided into three parts.
“Resistance” covers the war. So we get a look at the de Gaulle family during the Fall of France and the German Occupation. The young woman rather quickly became involved in Resistance work, smuggling arms, delivering documents, and editing a Resistance newspaper. This eventually led to her arrest by the Germans.
“Ravensbrück” covers Geneviève’s detention in various concentration camps. This was grim experience. Yet despite physical suffering and the ever-present danger of death, it had some with surprising touches of humanity.
Finally, “Rebuilding” deals with Geneviève’s postwar life. She supported her uncle’s political career, and testified against various war criminals. She also worked to secure assistance for former prisoners of war, and became an anti-poverty advocate. Showered with honors, was the first woman to be awarded the Grand-Croix de la Légion d'honneur.
The General’s Niece is very readable, and will prove rewarding reading for anyone interested in survival, faith, loyalty, and resistance in the face of tyranny.
Note: The General’s Niece is also available in several e-editions.