Cover image for Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc
Gordon, Mary, 1949-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Viking, 2000.
Physical Description:
xxv, 180 pages ; 20 cm.
General Note:
"A Lipper/Viking book."
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DC103 .G68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
DC103 .G68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DC103 .G68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DC103 .G68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
DC103 .G68 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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With the passion and grace that mark her bestselling novels of women and faith, Mary Gordon contemplates one of history's earliest and most powerful female martyrs.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Inspired matchmaking continues to guide the Penguin Lives editors in their selection of ideal biographers. What chronicler of the eastern establishment's upper crust is more suited to profile progressive puritan Woodrow Wilson than magisterial Auchincloss? Although Wilson was raised in the South (and retained the region's racial attitudes), as an attorney, academic, university president, governor, and president, he was more eastern than southern: a High Church Presbyterian, convinced he alone was qualified to reform the nation's political and economic systems and, with the world mired in war, make peace and restructure international relations. Auchincloss adopts biographer August Hecksher's notion of Wilson's "double nature": his achievements were often undermined because he reacted vindictively to opposition, unable to appreciate the strengths of his opponents' arguments. Feminism is one reason Gordon is a superb choice to write about Joan of Arc, but equally important is Gordon's concern as a writer with morality, religious faith, and the Catholic Church. Joan has consistently been oversimplified; she was actually erratic, complicated, and inconsistent. It is this complexity Gordon strives to capture in this "biographical meditation." She explains court intrigues and military confrontations with notable precision, but she returns repeatedly to the question of what Joan, a teenage virgin, a peasant driven by faith in her "voices," must have felt, surrounded first by knights and nobles and then by vindictive prosecutors. Gordon closes with a provocative analysis of artistic presentations of Joan, from Shaw and Shakespeare to Verdi and Hollywood, and with a probing discussion of why Joan was canonized in 1920 by the church that had executed her in 1431. --Mary Carroll

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.