Veteran biographer Spoto (Enchantment: The Life of Audrey Hepburn, 2006, etc.) takes a fresh look at the much-analyzed Joan of Arc.
The author portrays Joan not as a patriotic zealot but as a very human, very special teenaged girl. He delves into Joan’s childhood in the early 15th century, examining the historical backdrop and the ways in which Joan’s values and beliefs were shaped by life in her small French village. He follows Joan’s slow emergence as a leader, as she began to hear voices and eventually left home compelled to do the seemingly impossible—lead an army against the English. The ups and downs of her journey are compared with the experiences of the many men who crossed her path. After chronicling Joan’s military career, Spoto discusses her lengthy period of captivity, during which she endured misery and loneliness. Joan was burned at the stake in 1431, yet within a generation her name was cleared, and in time she was named a saint. She was, in Spoto’s view, someone blessed with courage and conviction few of us can dream of, who suffered both physically and emotionally from a cruel trial and punishment.
A short but compelling work in praise of its subject.