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A brilliant study of France and French military power through four generations. The careers of the two Marshalls span the years from Napoleon’s downfall to Verdun and Vichy France.
“This biography of two soldiers of France is, in effect, a history of the French Army for a hundred years, as well as portraiture of marked differences and striking contrasts. There are strong touches of irony and emphasis in Bazaine’s life and army career, his strength, and innocence in face of public blame following the surrender at Metz in 1870 — and Pétain’s, whose weakness and mediocrity contrast baldly with his predecessor. “The first Marshal was made a scapegoat by his defeated country, and when the second Marshal came to power, the scapegoat was France”. The elaborate sketching of background material, the bird’s eye views of each successive era in French history provide a three-dimensional setting for each man. Bazaine’s is a more thorough characterization, for Petain’s seems more often guesswork and speculation through lack of early factual material. However there is justice and judgement in this study of “the psychology of defeat” and Guedalla’s lively style and personal approach to his subjects is good reading.”-Kirkus Reviews