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© AFP/File / by Joseph Schmid | A new biography of French first lady Brigitte Macron offers a comprehensive account but yields few new details


From her teenage years as a red-skirted figure skater to her time as a PR officer and teacher before meeting France's future president, a book out Wednesday attempts to decode the popularity of France's first lady.

The unauthorised biography "Brigitte Macron: L'Affranchie", or "Unfettered", was written by a prominent editor whose gossip magazine is known for its scoops on celebrities.

It is the first biography since her husband swept to the presidency last year propelling Brigitte to global fame -- but for all her public appearances she remains an enigmatic figure for many.

Her popularity was most recently on display during a state visit to China, where the couple's age difference -- she is 24 years older than her husband -- was a source of fascination in a country where men tend to pursue much younger women.

But for Macron afficionados, excerpts released this week by author Maelle Brun's magazine Closer mostly covered well-trodden ground.

Childhood friends recount Macron's early years as the youngest of six children in the northern French town of Amiens, recalling a cossetted and vivacious teenager, a member of the city's figure skating team for three years starting in 1967.

"Being the last of a large family, she benefited from a large degree of freedom," a friend recalled.

Another remembered that "for good marks, she once got an entire jewellery set in silver."

The book also delves into Brigitte's first marriage with Andre-Louis Auziere, a banker described as "nice, but not very talkative" -- the opposite of his extroverted spouse.

But when the couple moved near Lille, she found an outlet for her people skills as a press officer for the local chamber of commerce.

- 'Loosening us up' -

"She's a very spontaneous person, she operates without filters and therefore sometimes without putting up defences, which accounts for her strength and well as her fragility," French writer Philippe Besson enthuses in the book.

"Unfettered" spends plenty of time speaking with former students of Brigitte Trogneux when she was a drama teacher at an Amiens high school -- where in 1993 she would help a student, Emmanuel Macron, rewrite Eduardo De Filippo's "The Art of Comedy".

"I remember one time we were studying the concept of passion," eliciting a nervous silence in the classroom, a former student recounts.

"So she cheerfully bursts out that treating yourself to pleasure once in a while does some good! She had a gift for loosening us up."

As a sidenote, Brun also touches on a book written by the young Macron at the time.

"I knew him from the neighbourhood, and one day he asked me to type up the 300 pages of a book he had just written," the book quotes a neighbour as saying.

"It was a quite daring novel, a bit raunchy even!" she said.

"I didn't keep it unfortunately; he must have it still. If I had only known."

by Joseph Schmid

© 2018 AFP