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Joseph McAuleyMarch 06, 2020
French president Emmanuel Macron celebrates at his victory rally near the Louvre in Paris on May 7, 2017. (CNS photo/Christian Hartmann, Reuters)

Revolution Française is not a biography in a strictly conventional sense, though it presents biographical elements. Rather, it is a contemporaneous report on the remarkable rise of Emmanuel Macron to the presidency of France in 2017 at the age of 39. His election was historic by many measures, particularly for his being the youngest elected president and for the fact that he won the office on his first try, when custom dictated that past presidents entered the Élysée on either their second or third attempts.

Revolution Françaiseby Sophie Pedder

Bloomsbury Continuum 

297p, $28

Written by Sophie Pedder, the Paris bureau chief of The Economist, this book is the result of many years observing the evolution of a most unlikely French leader: one whose experience was basically in intellectual pursuits, the civil service and investment banking.

Before she addresses Macron’s entrance into public life, Pedder provides us with pertinent facts of his private life: He is married to a woman who is 25 years his senior (and his former high school teacher); he comes from a family of physicians (his parents, brother and sister are all doctors); and he was a precocious child, unusually intelligent and more self-possessed than his peers. To the consternation of his parents, he credits his maternal grandmother’s influences for his approach to life. Though modern in outlook, in some respects he is decidedly old-fashioned in his cultural tastes. While he grew up in a largely secular household, he requested to be baptized a Catholic at the age of 12 and went to a Jesuit secondary school in his hometown of Amiens (La Providence, popularly known as “La Pro”). When older, however, he described himself as an “agnostic Catholic.”

Sophie Pedder's biography of Emmanuel Macron is the result of many years observing the evolution of a most unlikely French leader.

Macron is unusual in that he approaches government from a different perspective. He came to power exactly 13 months after creating his own political party or movement, called En Marche (“Onward” or “On the Move” in English), and he operated it as if it were a start-up tech business venture. By mixing the traditional (door-to-door campaigning) with entrepreneurial techniques, he upended the political system; he entered office promising a fresh outlook and new approaches to old, intractable attitudes and problems.

As Pedder relates, Macron not only wants to “reform” France but to “transform” it. He wants to restore hope and confidence in a moribund society that is tied to its past, yet uncertain of the future. He seeks to put France back on the world stage, restored to la gloire et la majesté.

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