Francois Mitterrand was the son of a station master at Angouleme in Cognac country but by the late 1930's, as a student in Paris, he had discovered a fascination with politics.
And with his political ideas still forming in his mind, he was faced with the dilemma of whether to follow the right wing tradition of his conservative, Catholic family or whether to branch out; whether he would support the Vichy government or help to form a Resistance.
This new biography of Mitterrand has been written by former BBC Foreign Correspondent Philip Short.
Reader: Henry Goodman
Abridged and produced by Jane Marshall.
A Jane Marshall production for BBC Radio 4.