A new biography of Joan of Arc provides a granular account of her young personality.
This new book examines the life of Jehanne la Pucelle, popularly known as Joan of Arc. Beginning at the age of 12, Jehanne began to experience what she believed were visitations from angels, preparing her for an important mission she was to undertake on God’s behalf. She finally came to the realization that she had been appointed to lead the French against the English invaders in the first half of the 15th century, in the later stages of the Hundred Years’ War. The English military controlled most of northern France, and conventional wisdom held that Orléans was the last barrier to a decisive triumph over the French. Jehanne believed it was her divine purpose to lead French forces to victory over the English at Orléans, and to restore the legitimacy of Charles VII’s claim to the crown. She traveled an arduous journey to meet Gov. Robert de Baudricourt, whom she convinced to grant her a hearing before the king in Chinon; somewhat surprisingly, the king, convinced Jehanne was the fulfillment of an old French prophecy, had armor made for her and elevated her to the status of field commander, in charge of 500 soldiers. She then traveled to Orléans, fought with impressive valor, and suffered serious wounds. The French ultimately prevailed in Orléans, and Jehanne was considered by many to be a deciding factor in the newfound fortune of the French. MacCarthy, who has collaborated on numerous books (Only in America: The Story of the Seven Alessio Brothers, 2002, etc.), furnishes a novellike fictionalization of Jehanne’s life that attempts to plumb her inner thoughts, and not merely offer the historical details of her deeds. He begins with her early life on the family farm in Lorraine, and carefully charts the development of her commitment all the way through the battle of Orléans, which is vividly described. The author unabashedly loves his subject, and so even the most fabular elements of Jehanne’s story, doubted by many historical experts, are gushingly presented as fact. The tale, if not at a rigorous scholarly level, is still told briskly, delivering cinematic action and suspense, which should keep readers gripped. Despite its fawning excess, the book provides a captivating historical dramatization, with the emphasis on drama.
One of the most psychologically ambitious—and adoring—biographies of Joan of Arc available.