A fine biography of the one French leader in the postwar period who had a personal authority that approached de Gaulle's. A riveting story of a young star, a brilliant mind, a courageous patriot, a prisoner of Vichy who escaped and came to serve de Gaulle and the Free French. A minister in a prewar cabinet of LTon Blum, he was a minister for de Gaulle as well, but broke with him and opposed him in 1958 and 1968. In his seven months as premier in 1954-55, he resolved issues, including the Indochina war, that predecessors had dodged. A wise, melancholy leader, a legend, he was admired and detested, but even his critics spoke of "his noble destiny"-a destiny that was never quite fulfilled. France's leading biographer-journalist does well with a complicated life, full of hope and failure.