A long-time analyst of French politics, Friend has written a well-informed overview of the French domestic and external policy scene during the two terms of Mitterrand's presidency. The emphasis is on the second term, the first having been covered in more detail in an earlier book by Friend; it is also on narrative more than analysis. But the tale is very ably told, and the narrator has a firm grasp not only of the complexities and detours of French affairs but also of the personalities whose rivalries provided the story with most of its substance -- in an era when governments of the left as well as the right discovered how little freedom of maneuver they had in economic and social affairs. The portrait he draws is that of a devious, vindictive, manipulative tactician whose flaws were partly redeemed by charm, culture, and personal courage. The record of achievement is short, and his place in history, as Friend points out, will depend on the fate of the EU, his only long-range design.
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