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The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc [Kindle Edition]

Kimberly Cutter
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Was she a saint or a witch? A visionary or a madwoman? Or an extraordinary peasant girl who, at God’s bidding, led an army, saved France, and paid the price by burning alive? . . . Kimberly Cutter’s portrait of ‘Jehanne’ as a strange, gritty teenage tomboy and true believer is compelling.” —USA Today

It is the fifteenth century, and the tumultuous Hundred Years’ War rages on. France is under siege, English soldiers tear through the countryside destroying all who cross their paths, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents’ garden in Domrémy, a peasant girl sees a spangle of light and hears a powerful voice speak her name: Jehanne.

The story of Jehanne d’Arc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imaginations for centuries. But the story of Jehanne—the girl whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and to fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her—is at once thrilling, unexpected, and heartbreaking. 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.

“Impressive . . . Cutter evokes the novel’s medieval world with striking details.” —New York Times Book Review

“Joan of Arc, the teenage peasant girl who commanded a French army, was burned at the stake, and eventually declared a saint, exists in our collective imagination as more myth than human being . . . Cutter strips away the romanticism in favor of a more complex portrayal that raises some provocative questions.” —O Magazine



Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The girl who led an army, the peasant who crowned a king, the maid who became a legend

It is the fifteenth century, and the tumultuous Hundred Years’ War rages on. France is under siege, English soldiers tear through the countryside destroying all who cross their path, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents’ garden in Domrémy, a peasant girl sees a spangle of light and hears a powerful voice speak her name. Jehanne .

The story of Jehanne d’Arc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imagination for centuries. But the story of Jehanne—the girl—whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her, is at once thrilling, unexpected, and heartbreaking. 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.

A Note from Kimberly Cutter, Author of The Maid

In the spring of 2008, I had realization. After several years of struggling to write a novel that was rooted more or less in my own experience, it occurred to me one afternoon that I was miserable (hiking "uphill in iron shoes," as Robert Lowell says), and that perhaps this was not the book I was meant to be writing. This, of course, was an incredibly depressing thing to realize, but it was also liberating in the way that admitting something true is always liberating. A few hours later, I was sitting on the floor in my living room, idly staring at a wedge of sunlight and wondering what to do with the rest of my life, when a thought occurred to me: What if you could write any book you wanted? Any book. In the whole world.

It’s hard to describe the kind of excitement that those words knocked free in me then. It was as if the entire snowy Himalayan mountain range had just sprung up behind my sofa. As if a unicorn stood drinking at my kitchen sink.

Hot on the heels of that thought came another: Well, what sort of book would it be? Any book. What would be the most exciting? The most fascinating? The most fun? The answers came thick and fast. It would be a book about someone who had actually existed. A woman. A woman who’d had a big, bold, active, adventurous life--the kind of life we all dream about living. I got up and made a list of candidates. Joan of Arc was on that original list (as were Cleopatra and Isabel Burton, the wife of legendary explorer Sir Richard Burton) but almost as soon as I began reading about Joan’s life, the other candidates drained away like shadows at daybreak. No one else had such conviction. Such faith. Such ferocious courage. Also, unlike so many of history’s great women, who were famous for standing behind great men, Joan stood alone. Behind no one. Her desire was her own; her glory was her own; her downfall was her own.

Up until then, I had never given Joan of Arc much thought before. Like a lot of people of my generation, I could count the things I knew about her on one hand: I knew she was a saint. I knew she was French. I knew she fought in a big war back sometime during the Middle Ages. I knew she was burned at the stake. That was it. For me, she existed as a sort of vague, dusty, sad-eyed figure in a stained glass church window--someone about as real as Snow White or Frankenstein. But as soon as I began reading about her life, I was hooked. Completely, utterly hooked. I wanted to know everything there was to know about her. This was a real girl, I kept thinking. A real flesh-and-blood teenager did all this.

-Kimberly Cutter

Review

Joan of Arc has been depicted as a heroine, a victim, a witch and a saint, but Kimberly Cutter makes of her a heartbreakingly real human being. Searingly unsentimental but emotionally powerful, this is a groundbreaking and ultimately beautiful book. Essential reading A L Berridge, author of Honour and the Sword In Cutter's creative telling, the perfection of nature contrasts with the brutality of battle that has become an everyday part of Jehanne's world ... Cutter makes the story of Saint Joan worth retelling by breathing new life into these characters and dramatizing the complex politics of their era in a strikingly engaging way ... Cutter's depiction of this frequently told story does what all the best historical novels do: It raises the ongoing questions we need to ask ourselves: Is war ever justified? Why do we destroy those who inspire us? Should we put our faith in our own understanding of God or in someone else's interpretation? ... By exploring these questions, The Maid sheds new light on a legend from the past and ultimately succeeds in illuminating the present Washington Post Kimberly Cutter's novel comes at you like one of Joan's visions: intense, mesmerizing and utterly commanding. The experience of reading it - and it is an experience - is both exhausting and exhilarating. Joan of Arc might've been a saint or a lunatic, but in Cutter's artful, sympathetic hands, she is first and foremost a human being. She lives, breathes, fights, dies, and you are there every step of the way. The Maid is an astounding achievement John Stephens, author of The Emerald Atlas Pacy enough to outstrip any cliche about Saint Joan, yet also a tender portrait of a young girl drawn into a hateful destiny Michelle Lovric, author of The Book of Human Skin A fiery portrait of one of history's most exalted heroines. Cutter's lavish imagery is outstanding and her dynamic characters are truly absorbing. The Maid is an entertaining and triumphant re-imagining of a courageous, faithful and remarkably resilient woman Amanda Foreman Delivers all the bravura one craves from historical fiction in a nuanced portrait of the French martyr Harper's Bazaar A compassionate, unsentimental take on the peasant girl who led the French army. We see the passionate human side of the young girl in the midst of epic battles and voices from God Grazia Kimberly Cutter succeeds in bringing a new dimension to a well-trodden story ... Cutter breathes life and meaning into the character. A heartbreaking story Daily Mail Unputdownable Independent

Product Details

  • File Size: 1732 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (October 18, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005ENZ5QC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,136 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely Written, But Ambivalent September 29, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"The Maid" is a somewhat historical, somewhat fictional account of the life of Joan of Arc (Jehanne D'Arc), the patron saint and vigilant young woman who helped turned the tide of the Hundred Year's War between France and England and secured Charles VII to the French throne. I had not known very much about this figure of history, other than that she was a military figure and she was burned at the stake. So, I looked forward to reading this book for a little more insight into her story.

The author does provide the background: the reader learns Joan's childhood, her family, the beginnings of the voices she hears that she believes are from St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margarent directing to her mission from God. The author does describe the various characters in history, and how they played out, and the roles they assumed. The author describes the battles, to some degree, in startling clarity. However, when it comes to Joan's trial, it is brief and fleeting.

I found the writing to be okay, but this novel just didn't sweep me up and draw me into it. It's not that I "hated" it - but I didn't really find it all that compelling, either. I feel that for Joan to do what she did, she had to have had a tremendous passion. And I simply didn't get that from this book. I felt as though I was reading about what this woman did, and not about what she felt. This was not a strict work of non-fiction, so I felt there was room to interject feelings and emotions into Joan and it wasn't done. At least, I didn't feel it. Although I feel as though I know more about the life of Joan of Arc, I don't feel as though I know any more about why she did what she did.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I really wanted to love this book. I chose it, because I loved the concept. Anyone, who takes a historical mystical character like Joan of Arc and is willing to attempt to breathe life into her story deserves some credit. However, the style of writing in this story is just not my cup of tea. I tried very hard for the first 100 pages to get into it - hoping it was my mood or that I would start liking the book, the tale or any of the characters more. I just didn't. I rarely write reviews about books I haven't finished. But, in this case, I so wanted to like it and finish it I'm doing so anyway. I think other reviewers have more thoroughly covered the odd religiosity, sexual, and violent depiction that covers the tale and added to making it a less than enjoyable read for me.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Divinely Human September 20, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Cutter has crafted an engrossing tale that sheds much needed light on one of the most famous women in history. Just about everyone knows who Joan of Arc was. What she did. What happened to her. How she was cleared and declared a saint. But one thing we will never know, it what it was really like, what really happened, who was there, how it all played out in her head and how many players were really involved in the game. Cutter has tried to give us a facet of the story from that perspective...and in this novel it works very well.

Joan is presented as more human, more doubting in herself, and more conflicted than in previous literary and cinematic offerings. We are given a glimpse into what her world may have been like, what she may have felt, and how it may have affected those around her. Was she called of God? Was she just crazy? We will never know- and this book wisely steers clear of those opinions and instead gives us Joan in her entirety- taking into account the voices and her amazing ability to galvanize and command an army.

The book is well crafted with great dialogue and wonderful imagery. The battles are appropriately gory, the language crude at times, and the outcomes thrilling to think about. We see a woman who is very much human, very much caught up in something bigger than herself, and very much alone. Told as more a series of memories and the like, the book works well and leads us firmly but gently to the somber ending we all know is coming. An absolutely wonderful read!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not my personal reading preference October 10, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Book opinions are subjective, not everyone likes the same things. I know there are a lot of good reviews for this book, and I respect their opinions. I personally did not enjoy this book. I really wanted to, I kept making myself read it to see if it would get to a place where it would start to flow along, but it didn't for me.

The writing felt choppy to me, hard to focus on, as sentences were hammered out in a factual, almost cold fashion. I realize this is probably to create a sense of activity, apprehension, excitement - but it simply made it hard for me to concentrate on. This resulted in my seeing a Jehanne who was troubled and detached.

I felt the religiousity of Jehanne was heavily mystified by this book, a far more worldly look at spirituality, that equates her experiences with mythological folklore.

Her encounters with people are regularly over-sexualized, with particular awareness paid to sensual thoughts & feelings at times when it was completely unnecessary. This just worsened the experience of this book for me. Jehanne was historically proven to have carefully maintained her purity, and while that may have been an internal struggle for her, it does not necessarily mean it had to be written like a tawdry cable show.

And finally, the graphic nature of the violence was too much for me, because it spilled into scenes that were not battle-related. If you don't mind that sort of thing, I understand. It's just not my cup of tea.

The language, sex, and violence in this book would easily be rated "R" in a movie. I don't watch rated R movies, and don't like to read books along that line either. If you don't like that type of thing, skip this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars read it!
Wonderfully written, great perspective, anyone interested in history in general or from the era this is worth the time...
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars Could not get into this
I finally gave up on this book as I could not get into it and found it boring and unbelievable.
Published 6 months ago by Tina
2.0 out of 5 stars A great concept poorly executed
I'm still baffled by the inconsistency of writing. Early in the book, the characters use americanisms and phraseology from teen tv drama that was completely unsuitable. Read more
Published 6 months ago by K. Holm
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
This is a pretty good read. I haven't found many historical fiction novels on Joan of Arc before, so I was really pleased to have found this one. Read more
Published 8 months ago by RantingDev
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome
This book had me mesmerized. I have always wanted to know more about Joan of Arc but thought any book would be filled with boring historical stuff. Not this book! Read more
Published 10 months ago by Jo
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm gonna BARF!!
So I borrowed this book from the library thinking , "ooh! Another account of Joan of Arc!", realizing that as a novel it is not gonna be completely accurate, but reading... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Deborah Fernando
5.0 out of 5 stars A courageous young woman called to free France.
This was a great insight to the life of Joan of arc. It really gives the reader a realistic view of what Jean endured when she first experience her visions. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Betty L. Durazo
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well written work of Historical Fiction
The Maid is a well written historical fiction. It is one of the most interesting stories in history which the author brings to life.
Published 12 months ago by fun
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Written Historical Fiction Novel.
Enjoyed following Joan from her early years to the end of her life. God chose her for a special mission and she accepted it even though (like most humans) questioned her own... Read more
Published 12 months ago by L. K. Opincar Tx
5.0 out of 5 stars absolutely loved it
Beautifully written, and the author clearly did their research on Joan. I would recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction and wants to enjoy a well written story of the... Read more
Published 12 months ago by jordan
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More About the Author

Kimberly Cutter was born in Palm Beach, Florida, and raised between there and Bronxville, New York. She attended Vanderbilt University and received her MFA from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. From 2000-2004, she served as the West Coast Editor for W Magazine. She has written for Elle, W, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, and Marie Claire, where she is currently a Contributing Editor. Her first book, The Maid, a novel of Joan of Arc, will be released on Oct. 20th, 2011 from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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