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Vita Sackville-West wrote Saint Joan of Arc in 1936 at the age of forty-four, and had, at that point, already been writing for thirty years. At fourteen, Sackville-West published her first book, and at fourteen Joan of Arc first heard the voices. Joan was seventeen when she took command of the armies of France—a peasant girl in the early fifteenth century in charge of a nation's forces. At nineteen she was captured by the British and tried as a witch by a church court. Before her twentieth birthday she was burned...
Vita Sackville-West wrote Saint Joan of Arc in 1936 at the age of forty-four, and had, at that point, already been writing for thirty years. At fourteen, Sackville-West published her first book, and at fourteen Joan of Arc first heard the voices. Joan was seventeen when she took command of the armies of France—a peasant girl in the early fifteenth century in charge of a nation's forces. At nineteen she was captured by the British and tried as a witch by a church court. Before her twentieth birthday she was burned at the stake. In 1920 she was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church as a saint. In a clever, brisk voice, Vita Sackville-West tells the triumphant story of a French peasant girl raised in a country torn apart by the Hundred Years' War who rose from poverty to military greatness. With dazzling insight and clarity, Sackville-West breathes new life into Joan of Arc's beautiful and tragic story.
|Chapter I||Jeanne d'Arc||1|
|Chapter II||The Hundred Years' War||13|
|Chapter III||Domremy (1)||24|
|Chapter IV||Domremy (2)||34|
|Chapter V||Domremy and Vaucouleurs (1)||62|
|Chapter VI||Domremy and Vaucouleurs (2)||80|
|Chapter VII||Vaucouleurs to Chinon||105|
|Chapter VIII||Poitiers to Orleans||134|
|Chapter IX||Orleans (1)||149|
|Chapter X||Orleans (2)||171|
|Chapter XII||Reims to Paris||224|
|Chapter XIII||Paris to Compiegne||237|
|Chapter XIV||Compiegne to Rouen||262|
|Chapter XV||The Trial (1)||285|
|Chapter XVI||The Trial (2)||313|
|Chapter XVII||The Last Act||337|
Posted July 25, 2002
Prof. Bonnie Wheeler of the International Joan of Arc Society has labeled this book 'dead wrong' (a position which she rarely takes), and other researchers, myself included, tend to agree. In fairness, at least the author genuinely read a wide selection of the documents, and was honest enough to refrain from the more outrageous claims. But the numerous distortions in this book include: 1) A persistent effort to remake Joan into a large, masculine, 'sexually-unappealing' androgyne (in contradiction to eyewitness accounts describing her as 'beautiful and shapely', 'short', with 'beautiful eyes', a 'sweet girl's voice', etc). The author often manipulates such testimony until it becomes the opposite of what the eyewitnesses actually said, especially the comments made by some of the men who had served in her army: what these fellows actually said (in summary) is that although they did find her attractive, they were amazed to find that their normal sexual desire (for all women) was suppressed when she was around. At no point did they say that they found her ugly or unappealing (as the author sometimes claims about this testimony), but precisely the reverse. 2) Worse, the author cites - sometimes out of context - some of the testimony given by a group of women (namely Charlotte Boucher (who had been only 9 years old when she 'slept with' Joan at Orleans), Hauviette de Sionne (apparently under 13 at the time), and Marguerite La Touroulde) who described a common medieval practice whereby whenever Joan and the men in her group were billeted for the night in a house in which there weren't enough beds for everyone, they placed Joan with the little girls of the house or the hostess rather than the men (her male bodyguard, Jean d'Aulon, frequently slept in the same room with her, and so the hostess or a little girl was also placed in the room for propriety's sake, and sometimes in the same bed if there weren't enough to go around). The author admits that this was 'the custom', and at least never goes so far as to claim that Joan was having sex with these women (which would contradict their own testimony that she was 'chaste'), but nevertheless makes enough innuendoes to prompt a few modern playwrights and others to cite this book as alleged 'proof' that such was the case. An author should not make careless comments on such a subject when she knows full well what the facts of the matter were. It's a little sad to see this book in yet another reprint. Its previous popularity seems to have been due entirely to the fact that it was well-written (if not always factual), and the author did enough research to give it the illusion of being authoritative despite the fact that historians have rejected so many of the author's interpretations. The only accepted authority on Joan during the last half-century was the great French medievalist Regine Pernoud; two of her books can be purchased here at B&N.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.