Thursday, October 20, 2011
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011
Source: Received an e-ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
So I don't really read a lot of adult books anymore, having chosen to mostly focus on YA and thus I don't read quite as much historical fiction as I have in previous years. But this looked quite intriguing on Netgalley so I requested it and read it.
Now I'm not super familiar with Joan of Arc and all of the stories around her so almost everything was new to me. And I was quickly drawn in to the story by Joan or rather Jehanne's confession that she was on fire for God. I was surprised by that religious content because it was my understanding that this was secular fiction (and it definitely was as I realized later). Her passion and devotion to God, her desire to be a saint, her reaction to her visions: all of those were my favorite parts. But they only appeared sporadically especially as Jehanne's fame grew and she became separated from the Lord.
The other part I really liked can be described in a line taken from the synopsis: "Rich with unspoken love and battlefield valor, The Maid is a novel about the power and uncertainty of faith, and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame." I would definitely agree with this especially the part about the consequences of fame. Jehanne achieves so much with her limited time and resources but the power that comes from her fame threatens almost all of the men around her who will eventually betray and/or abandon her in order to protect themselves.
On a practical level, it was hard for me every time she was called Jehanne because as an American, she's always called Joan. Also this is a very violent book (surprise!) There's a lot of killing, rape, and pillaging as the British and even the French ride through and destroy France. There is also a lot of swearing that reminded me that this was an adult book.
One other thing I didn't like was the writing which often used short fragments mixed in with sentences. It also was a little confusing when Jehanne's present imprisonment was next to her past; sometimes the line wasn't clear. However I think for the most part, it was well-researched (although I'm not familiar enough with Joan of Arc) and a pleasant diversion for a few hours.
Overall: A good historical fiction novel that captures the darkness of the period while also bringing some hope.