Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review of Joan of Arc by Helen Castor

Joan of Arc by Helen Castor


Joan of Arc, A History by Helen Castor

We all know the story of Joan of Arc. A peasant girl who hears voices from God. A warrior leading an army to victory, in an age that believes women cannot fight. The Maid of Orleans, and the saviour of France. Burned at the stake as a heretic at the age of just nineteen. Five hundred years later, a saint. Her case was heard in court twice over. One trial, in 1431, condemned her; the other, twenty-five years after her death, cleared her name. In the transcripts, we hear first-hand testimony from Joan, her family and her friends: a rare survival from the medieval world. What could be more revealing?
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published May 19th 2015 by Harper (first published September 30th 2014)
ISBN0062384392 (ISBN13: 9780062384393) characters Joan of Arc

Leona's Review:

Because I had always had an interest in Joan of Arc ( maybe because the name Joan runs in my family, including mine), I was interested in reading and reviewing Joan of Arc, A History by Helen Castor.

The book is full of history and not all about Joan the Maid. The first section, Before, and the last, After, mainly describe the time before and after Joan.
The book has family trees: English and French Claims to the Throne of France, The Valois Kings of France and The Dukes of Burgundy.
I have an advanced reading copy that is an uncorrected proof copy and it did not have the illustrations but they will be in the published book. As far as I am concerned, maps are very important in these historical books, even in the fiction novels that are historical.

List of illustrations
Cast of Characters
Family Trees
Introduction: 'Joan of Arc'
Prologue: The field of blood
PART ONE: Before
 1 This war accursed by god
 2 Like another Messiah
 3 Desolate and divided
 4 The Maid
 5  Like an angel from God
 6  A heart greater than any man's
 7  A creature in the form of a woman
 8  I will be with you soon
 9  A simple maid
 10 Fear of the Fire
 11 Those who call themselves Frenchmen   
 12 She was all innocent
EPILOGUE: 'Saint Joan'
Select Bibliography

Most of my book marks for my notes are in the section of Joan and the Notes. The Notes are also part of the book, so readers should read this thoroughly.
I found this book more historical than a biography. Lots of dates, events, places and people make up this book. The names of the characters are a great assistance in reading.

I kept reading about Joan in men's clothes and did find in the Notes section the reason; "For the Old Testament prohibition on cross-dressing, see Deuteronomy 22:5- ' A woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment; for whosoever doeth these things is an abomination to the Lord thy God.' "  (page 268)  In the section, Joan, many mentions are made of her clothing.

I did email to the author, Helen Castor, and asked if Joan could write because I kept reading the Joan had "written". She replied the next day and said a clerk would have written for her. On re-reading my notes, I found I had marked "As she directed, the clerk added the inscription 'Jhesus Maria" before her name. 'Jeanne la Pucelle': Joan the Maid". (page 108)

I was not aware that Joan's ashes had been thrown into the river near Notre Dame. I have been in that Cathedral and would have felt differently when I had looked into the river Seine if I had known. (page 221)  My information: go to

It has been years since I have read about Joan and forgot the times she was in prison and so many hardships.

The book is dedicated to : For Luca.

The acknowledgement pages list many names that helped with this book.

I give this a 5 star rating. It is a book I would read again and will look for more readings about Joan of Arc, Joan the Maid.
My daughter would call me and ask what I was doing and I would say "Reading my history book" and she knew what I meant.

I was given a complimentary copy to read and review. The opinions are my own. I thank the author, Helen Castor, and the publishers, HarperCollins.
HarperCollins email is

Helen Castor may be reached at: . From Helen Castor is a historian of medieval England and a Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. She directed studies in History at Sidney for eight years before deciding to concentrate on writing history for a wider readership.

Leona Olson

No comments: