REVIEW: The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc

Book by Kimberly Cutter
Jane Christmas

The maid: A novel of Joan of ArcThey burned her body three times; that’s how desperate the English, the Church and the French were to pulverize her. For Joan of Arc was a quadruple threat: she was a poor, illiterate teenager who heard God speaking to her, who led 10,000 soldiers to victory and saved France, who secured the coronation of the king of France, and who had attained rock-star status among her compatriots. This diminutive 19-year-old had the status quo on both sides of the battlefield quaking in their boots. Joan of Arc is one of the most inspiring, confusing, intriguing and tragic figures in history, and the story of her short life is so audacious as to suspend belief.

Cutter presents a thrilling and powerful version of events that follows the established facts of her protagonist’s life, but that also goes deep into Joan’s heart and head as she second-guesses the divine voices, panics before battle, rejoices in the euphoria of victory, and then crumbles when she is betrayed by those she helped and trusted.

The other storyline that Cutter chronicles is that of the people who couldn’t quite figure out the young maid in their midst, who subjected her to repeated examinations to verify her virginity, who questioned her incessantly about the visions, who kept looking for an ulterior motive. When they finally sent her into battle it was almost as a joke, for they were not expecting victory. But they underestimated Joan’s tenacity and faith. She was eventually brought down by politics, jealousy and paternalism. To the public she was saviour and freak show. To the Church, the very institution she held dear, she was a heretic, a schismatic, an arm of Satan.

The Church reversed its guilty verdict 25 years after they burned Joan at the stake. It took another 500 years before it declared her a saint.