First of all, how embarrassed am I that I didn't really know the story of Joan of Arc? I thought it was about a girl soldier that was burned at the stake because she dressed up like a man.
This story is so much more complicated than that. This is a story about faith, courage, revelation, miracles, pride, power, corruption, martyrdom and enduring to the end. This is a story that is so astonishing that most should be thoroughly schooled in its details. It is very inspiring. In short, Joan of Arc's story could easily be found in any set of scriptures.
I find it interesting that Mark Twain wrote this book. He, a man of little to no faith and disdain for those who practiced it, clearly loved and admired Joan. Twain's familiar wit and satirical prose are all but absent within these pages. Instead, he writes as a man named de Conte, the fictional page and scribe of Joan, thus allowing himself to write with his own adoring perspective, without having to actually be Mark Twain. He called this the "best of all his books" and no doubt felt that way after a result of twelve years of research. As there is plenty of historical data available about Joan's life, including the full transcript of her trial, I have little doubt that this is a very accurate representation of her life.
On one hand, I like his choice in narration. As Joan's friend and scribe, Twain's de Conte manages to allow the reader to witness Joan's life from his own memory, a memory that included first hand accounts of most of Joan's life. And although his biting wit is extremely toned down, little glimpses are seen here and there through the telling of personal side notes.
On the other hand, the narration allowed the book to frequently become overly sentimental. Louis de Conte oft wandered away from the main story line to regale a story of the Paladin, or La Hire or his attraction towards Catherine de Boucher. In addition, I lost track of how many paragraphs were lent to remind the reader, once again, about Joan's saintliness. I feel it was unnecessary and writing it, over and over again, gave the book a "dumbed down" feel (which really is quite silly because this is NOT an easy read - I should have been grateful for any dumbing down). I think the caliber of her person, as well as her righteousness, were made obvious by her very actions, by her charity and by her speech. To point it out so often was overdoing it and eventually wore down my good opinion. I have a hard time loving a book that bored me at times.
That being said, this is an incredible book about an even more incredible historical figure. I could write and write about how much I loved Joan and her goodness, about her persecution and how much her story reminded me of Joseph Smith's. There are striking similarities, down to the resigned knowledge of their own endings. But they knew what they knew, they knew God knew what they knew, and they could not deny it. With their knowledge, they accomplished great works and forever changed the course of history. Read for yourself and become smitten with the power of a seventeen year old girl who became commander in chief of all the armies in France...because God told her to do it.
Thank you, Amy. I am so much more enlightened because you sent this to me. I can walk around with confidence knowing all I now know about the life of Joan of Arc.