Review: The Maid

Firstly, many thanks to NetGalley, and to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read The Maid!   This was my first Joan of Arc book.  I was excited to read her story, as up to this point, I confess that I knew very little about her.  Not the case anymore, however, as this story certainly put her short life into historical context.  She was a fascinating character; a peasant girl who responded to God’s call, and helped bring about the end to the Hundred Years’ War.  Her campaign in 1429 unquestionably helped lead France to victory against the English.  Largely because of her, France eventually won their country back.  Thousands of lives were lost, and it was truly amazing that this “Maid” repeatedly gave the war cries that energized an army.  They relied on her, revered her, and then, when she needed them the most, they turned their backs to her.  Everyone knows that Jehanne d’Arc was eventually captured by the English, and burned at the stake.  She was seventeen when she died.  Hardly an end befitting a young woman with that kind of devotion, heart and candor.

Did Joan truly hear the voices of Saints?  Did she really have conversations with Saints Michael, Margaret or Catherine?  Was her determination to lead a French army God’s mission, or the ravings of a madwoman?  Many today have dismissed her “voices” as a sign that she was schizophrenic.  I would love to believe otherwise, however, if only for her sake.  She was recognized by the Catholic Church as a Saint in 1920, so surely her life had some divine qualities.

Overall, while the story of Joan of Arc is never dull, I did struggle to feel true attachment to any of the book’s characters, including Jehanne.  There is no doubt that this young woman led an incredible life, but this story felt rushed.  The writing also jumped between styles, from narrator to Joan’s personal observations, which was odd.  Felt like there should have been more emotion behind the historical account, and there always seemed to be something lacking from the descriptions.  A decent read, but may leave you wanting more from this slice of history.  3 stars.

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