From Publishers Weekly
One would expect nothing less from Gordon (Spending) than a splendid, spare account of Joan's life--and she delivers in this slender but satisfying account, a new entry in the Penguin Lives series. The facts of Joan of Arc's life are straightforward: she was born in 1412, in Domr?my, France, to a peasant family; she participated in the Hundred Years' War but was in active military service for only a year; and she was burned at the stake at 19. Novelist Gordon, who has always been fascinated by the young heroine, emphasizes Joan the girl. She acknowledges that the 17-year-old could have been a wife and mother, a fully adult member of her community. But Gordon's Joan "has a young girl's heedlessness, sureness, readiness for utter self-surrender." This biography rehearses the well-known highlights in Joan's short life: the voices she heard who charged her with the mission to save France; her participation in the Battle of Orl?ans and the coronation of King Charles VII; her trial by an ecclesiastical court, where she was charged with witchcraft, heresy and idolatry. The judges, Gordon tells us in a deft and clever interpretation, connected "Joan's cross-dressing to the sin of idolatry. [They] were accusing Joan of making an idol of herself." Gordon recounts Joan's excommunication and execution in spare and arresting detail. The strength of this "biographical meditation" lies in the penultimate chapter, in which Gordon investigates the numerous re-creations of Joan on stage and screen, from Carl Dreyer's 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc to Verdi's opera Giovanna d'Arco-a chapter that comes like an unexpected dessert at the end of a rich feast. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Gordon introduces the peasant girl of Domrmy as a typical young woman of her time, yet stresses emphatically the ways in which, "There is no one like her." She dramatically presents what is universally known of Joan-young, countrified, riding astride in men's armor amid fleur-de-lis banners. Readers see Joan entering Orlans in triumph, controlling her frightened horse when a pennant she is carrying is accidentally set afire. Then she is a commoner at Charles's side in the cathedral at Rheims, holding her standard as he is crowned king of France. At each of the tableaux, Gordon delves into significant deeper meanings. She is particularly insightful in determining the element of danger for Joan in all of her relationships-with Charles, with the treacherous Burgundians, with the English, and ultimately with the church. She cites Joan's courage and tenacity of vision and her confidence in divine support. Gordon concludes, "Ardent, impatient, boastful, resistant, implacable, she is like all great saints a personality of genius." Teens are sure to be intrigued by her.-Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.