It is the early part of the fifteenth century and the tumultuous Hundred Years War rages on.
The French city of Orleans is under siege, English soldiers tea rthrough the countryside wreaking destruction on all who cross their path, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents' garden in Domremy, a twelve-year-old peasant girl, Jehanne, hears a voice that will change her life - and the course of European history.
The tale of Jehanne d'Arc, the saint and warrior who believed she had been chosen by God to save France, and who led an army of 10,000 soldiers against theEnglish, has captivated our imagination for centuries.
But the story of Jehanne- the girl - whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escapefrom her violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride, andfight, and lead, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to convincefirst one, then two, then tens, then thousands to follow her, is at oncethrilling, unexpected and heart-breaking. Sweeping, gripping and rich with intrigue, betrayal, love and valour, The Maid is an unforgettable novel about the power and burden of faith, and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 304 pages
- Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
- Publication Date: 29/03/2012
- Category: Historical fiction
- ISBN: 9781408821862
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Review by Goldengrove
I really enjoyed this historical re-telling of Joan of Arc's campaign against the English in 15th century France. Whilst sticking to what we actually know about Joan - or Jehanne - Cutter weaves a compelling tale of the peasant girl stricken with religious conviction. The depiction of religious experience is especially good - a combination of extreme joy and pain as she is caught up in vision glorious, yet has to return to ordinary life:"She doesn't know how long it lasted. It felt like a long time, but she doesn't know. What she does know is that afterward, when the voice and light were gone, it was terrible. All the world gray and cold, like a tomb. Gray trees, gray sky, black sun. Black leaves scuttling down the hillside. Everything cold, shrivelled, bereft. She lay curled on the ground, sobbing. 'Come back, please. Come back.' Wanting nothing but to die, sleep. Return."Throughout her mission, Jehanne is hurled from ecstasy to despair. Sometimes her voices are there to comfort and call her 'darling', sometimes they are silent. It is a compelling story (more books have been written about her than about any other woman in history), and Cutter writes so well that 'knowing how it will end' is irrelevant. We see Jehanne's faith, and understand that her passion and drive make her death inevitable. When her voices tell her that she will be dead in a year and she collapses in grief, we weep with her for the unfairness of it all. Near the end, recovering from a wound and living in Charles' court, she realises that war has become what she is for:"And she understood the strange beauty of war then, the way it brings the world to life for its participants, makes each moment shimmer simply because it exists, makes each blade of grass a marvel, makes the humblest gruel seem a delicacy, the trip of a squirrel up a tree trunk an adventure, a thing of wonder. And she saw then that she missed the war, that she'd felt at home in it, among the filthy soldiers and the horses and the fires and the trees, in a way she'd never felt anywhere else."Joan's story moves us because it is the story of youth, full of hope and faith, crushed by the relentless pressure of the quotidian, the regular, the ordinary. Fear destroying the extraordinary. The bibliography shows how meticulously it has been reserached - not just historical sources, but Teresa d'Avila and William James, Shaw and works on mental illness. Whatever you've ever thought about Joan of Arc, about faith or sainthood, it will be changed and enriched by this book.