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Joan of Arc (Wishbone Classics #4) Paperback – May 15, 1996
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About the Author
Mark Twain, who was born Samuel L. Clemens in Missouri in 1835, wrote some of the most enduring works of literature in the English language, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc was his last completed book—and, by his own estimate, his best. Its acquisition by Harper & Brothers allowed Twain to stave off bankruptcy. He died in 1910.
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I spent the first several pages of Recollections expecting some sly asides and jokes by Twain himself, but he happily quiets his own biting wit in the service of the narrator, a minor noble called Sieur Louis de Conte. Soon enough after starting, I let down my guard and immersed myself in de Conte’s straightforward meticulousness as he describes people and places, and affectionately recounts Joan’s quotidian encounters that reveal her character, her manners and speech, and her absolute conviction. Twain’s probing research into the life of Joan of Arc makes his conceit, in which de Conte is himself a writer of no small talent, utterly convincing. As one court condemned her in a court case, de Conte vindicates her with his own case for the rightness and justice of her leadership. The narrative could easily slip into melodrama or hagiography, but de Conte includes enough comic relief (especially in the characters of the Paladin and Noel Rainguesson, and in a number of small vignettes along the way) and careful recountings of battles and trials that Recollections are neither. Instead, the picture of Joan that emerges is exactly what a Christian saint should be: true to her call in life, inspired by God, patient under duress, yet bold in spiritual and even physical battle. Saint Joan, given flesh by Twain’s pen, truly embodies the Pauline ideal of “cunning as a serpent, but gentle as a dove.”
The outcome, of course, is unchangeable, but the literary journey to Joan’s certain end is well worth the reader’s time, for whatever it may lack in suspense. Whatever the reader’s religious or political leanings (should a reader still be enmeshed in Anglo-Frankish history), the figure of Joan herself is inspiring, and Twain gives pink cheeks, brightly snapping eyes, and a clarion voice to a young woman who died hundreds of years ago. In this biography of an illiterate peasant who acted in faith and courage, Twain’s Recollections makes it easy to understand why grown men would, or would not!, submit themselves to the command of a girl. It’s enough to make even a modern reader a devotee of this humble and courageous saint himself.
Looks like someone copied and pasted each page then printed it out with mile-wide margins.
Truly, the print is like the smallest ingredients list on a small sardine can! (#8 font?)
Wished I'd been aware before I hit the purchase button!
This printing ends not long after Joan raises the siege of Orleans, which seems to be about a third of the complete novel. Not only is that unclear when you order it (maybe a "Volume I" label would have been helpful), but this edition ends in an awkward spot. The icing on the cake: this is the only book "Twain Press" (I've never read a book by a legitimate press that has these errors) sells, so don't expect to purchase Vol. II or III.
Save yourself the hassle and the money for a second order so you can actually finish. Order from a different publisher.
However, I think there's a lot to say for it. As a fictionalized memoir, it's a solid and emotional read. Twain gets his into characters as the aged friend of Joan's who is still deeply affected by her in his old age. The book is written with passion, fervor, and heart as he describes the greatness and the goodness of Joan of Arc.
The book is moving and exciting. Twain did extensive research and he's able to take the best of the official record and bring to light a compelling story.
Twain does well with his portrayal of Joan's fictional friends. While it may be true that they sound more like they come from Hannibal than medieval France, they are entertaining and fun to read.
The book's what you'd expect from a skeptic and borderline cynic. Modern treatments of Joan of Arc try to dismiss her as a mentally disturbed woman. A mentally disturbed teenager who turned the course of the 100 year wars but still---
George Bernard Shaw preferred to pretend the tribunal was a legitimate religious tribunal so that he could castigate religion. Twain opts to put his irreverence in check to point out the trial was illegal because Joan had been examined by a superior religious court prior to this, and that throughout the trial the clerics acted as political agents of the English and violated numerous procedures in their kangaroo court.
What Twain and the rest of us are left with in Joan of Arc is a remarkable case. While many lives of the Saints from the Middle Ages were subject to countless embellishments over the centuries through oral retellings and the mixing of legends, Joan is a unique case. As Twain notes, her life is a matter of record, of sworn testimony in three trials.
And what we're left with is the story of an illiterate, untaught untrained teenage girl who turned the tide of the nearly hopeless French cause, showing wisdom far beyond her years. She spoke like a prophet, loved like an angel, and died like a martyr. Twain didn't try to debunk her, disprove her, or diminish her. He could only honor her and marvel at the mystery of this amazing woman who raised so many questions that are uncomfortable to our modern ears.
Most recent customer reviews
Oh, and she was kicking butt. Wow!!! Its the Maid of Orleans! Whohoo!!! JOAN OF ARC!!!!!Read more
Truly his best book. Mark Twain connects one to Joan's heart.Read more