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Joan of Arc Hardcover – March 20, 2000

2.8 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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 Domr‚my 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 Orl‚ans 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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (March 20, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670885371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670885374
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,137,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
While I love the short form and popular biography, I just don't think Gordon pulled it off here. I suppose, a meditation, as she calls this book, is its best description. However, a meditation is not a biography and it seems to me an easy way out of doing the hard work of research and analysis and writing required to successfuly pull off the short form. See Marcel Proust by Edmund White: exemplar writing of the short form, popular biography. While some of Gordon's meditation is interesting is just doen't belong here and she tries too hard to tie in, compare, etc Joan w/ our modern times. I did enjoy many of her insights and ideas about the Church and her unsentimentality or romanticizing of Joan refreshing. But I never was able to really get a feel for Joan or her times; I could never immerse myself in Joan's story because the author was too present, too obvious w/ all her medititations. Point of view is paramountto the short form biography but it should not overwhelm the authors subject or the subjects story. And, again, there is a difference between "meditation" (as in the essay) and point of view. It may be argued that the short form biography is an "extended essay," and that is largely true but when a short form biography becomes more of an outlet for meditation than serious exploration of the subject rather than the author's reflections, it ceases to be biography. I also found the breaking down of chapters with subheads distracting (because they simply were not needed) and pedantic. And while the author's reviews and interpretations of all the other books on Joan were interesting, still it seemed too pat and not part of the biographical dialogue; or rather, it could have worked as part of the continual narrative. I'm sorry, I erally enjoy Gordon's writing generally, but this just didn't work at all as a short form popular biography, or warrant be put between 2 book covers.
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By A Customer on March 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I might have enjoyed this in an essay or under the auspices of "relections" (again, essay),but no matter how you dress it up, and no matter what you call it, a biography this book certainly is not. For a great and serious short new biography, see Siobhan Nash Marshall's : Joan of Arc: A Spiritual Biography. I may not agree with Marshall's final analysis but she's an excellent storyteller and knows how to weed out a story. She also knows how to take a strong stand, express a point of view but at the same time stay out of the story--something Ms. Gordon may learn from--at least when attempting to write a biography. A "biography" is not about the author's ruminations, reflections & "meditation", it is about the author's subject, and that subject's life and legacy.
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Format: Hardcover
With my memory of Joan of Arc quite dimmed, I thought Ms. Gordon's book would be at least a suitable introduction to/reacquainting with a fascinating subject, and it was. Never did I take the book as a "serious" biography. Rather, I saw it -as others have and as I have viewed other books in the Penguin Lives series - as a meditation, an essay or a study which, in past Lives, indeed has led me to read some of the fuller biographical sources upon which the author drew. Ms. Gordon immediately oriented me on her work about Joan by noting in the first sentence of her Acknowledgement that there are more than 20,000 books about Joan in the Bibliotheque Nationale alone. How could any reader expect her or any other writer to thoroughly or fairly distill the treasure of information on Joan for the Lives series? Yet, she seemed to address the wondrous and vexing aspects of a timelessly complicated character adequately. Her bias was transparent but understandable so as not to bother me; in fact, it made for good reflection on and dialog with the book. Thank you, Ms. Gordon, for a worthy addition to the body of work on Joan, for contributing to the Lives series (which, in my opinion, has been good for biography) and for the information on the treatments of Joan in mediums other than print.
PS - I'm just a reader, not an agent for Gordon, Penguin, Joan or anything else, in this instance.
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Format: Audio Cassette
Previous Amazon reviewers of Mary Gordon's Joan of Arc often criticize Mary's choice of writing a "meditation" instead of a "real" biography. One particular reviewer especially disliked the Introduction which he thought was just plain awful.Well, put me in the other camp - I thought the Introduction was wonderful, and in fact the best chapter of the book. Why so? Because Mary Gordon, very much like Johan Huizinga who she references, immediately grasp an essential truth about Jehanne - there is no one like her. Huizinga was an historian who realized Joan could not be comprehended with the ready-to-hand tools of the historian. Mary Gordon realized the very same thing with respect to the tools of the biographical reviewer. A "meditation" is not a failure. Rather, some such "indirect" appraoch is necessary, whether it be poetic, or reflective as in Mary Gordon's approach. As Harold Bloom might say, the essence of Joan is her irreducible "strangeness". I am absolutely convinced that persons who do not realize this will never be equal to the task. As Mary Gordon says her Introduction : "There is no one like her". That is why Mary's approach succeeds.
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