JOAN OF ARC

HER STORY

A useful and innovative documentary history of the15th-century French insurrectionist. Pernoud, who died in April, has supplemented her previous biography, Joan of Arc (1966), by offering readers this annotated explanation of the controversial saint’s historical record. It isn—t a biography per se and doesn’t follow the standard biographical format of piecing together the available sources to present readers with a chronological narrative. Rather, Pernoud and Clin introduce readers to Joan as she has appeared in various documents, such as the one, contemporary with her lifetime, referring to her as a French peasant girl gathering armed forces to augment the beleaguered ranks of the dauphin’s regiment. Information about her birth and childhood is unveiled only in chapter nine, since Joan rose from relative obscurity, and since no one cared enough to inquire formally into her origins until almost three decades after her death. The approach of Pernoud and Clin, both independent scholars in France, thus offers valuable insight into the nature of history and its practices; documents, as their book demonstrates, should always be weighed carefully against one another when any past event is being interpreted. The authors note that while many legends have emerged about Joan (the third section delves into some of these), more verifiable factual information exists about her than about Plato, Julius Caesar, or Jesus. The details of her military leadership at age 17, her imprisonment and trial, and her execution at the stake at 19 are all surprisingly well attested by letters (three penned by Joan herself), trial transcripts, contemporary histories, and ecclesiastical records. Pernoud and Clin are perhaps overly sympathetic to Joan’s crusade and to the woman herself; her courage is described in almost hagiographic terms. Still, their well-crafted book also permits us to eyeball the documents and draw our own conclusions. Intriguing not only for Joan’s timeless enigma, but for an unusual methodology, which illuminates the detective work by which historians synthesize usable narratives.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-21442-1

Page Count: 300

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1998

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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