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Joan of Arc Hardcover – 2 Oct 2014


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (2 Oct. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571284620
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571284627
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 28,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Helen Castor is a medieval historian and a Bye-Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her first book, Blood & Roses, a biography of the fifteenth-century Paston family, was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2005 and won the English Association's Beatrice White Prize in 2006. Her second book, She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth, was selected as one of the books of the year for 2010 in the Guardian, Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Financial Times and BBC History Magazine.

Helen is one of the presenters of Radio 4's Making History, and writes and presents programmes for BBC television, including a three-part series based on her book She-Wolves.

Her latest book, Joan of Arc: A History, is the subject of a BBC Two documentary to be broadcast in 2015.

Product Description

Review

'A triumph - brings the real Joan and her time to dramatic, moving and brilliant life.' (Dan Jones, author of The Plantagenets)

Joan of Arc: a History is popular history at its best: pacy, clear and undergirded with a formidable array of scholarly footnotes. Helen Castor shows how well it can be done. (Diarmaid MacCulloch Daily Telegraph)

There have been many lives of Joan, and books about her times, some of them excellent. But none is quite like Castor's ... [her] book is a historian's achievement. (Janet Nelson Guardian)

[A] vivid and intelligent biography ... hugely impressive. (Andrew Lynch Sunday Business Post)

Clear and elegant ... an engaging piece of popular scholarship that does not diminish Joan's star, but instead uses its light to illuminate a remarkable age. (Rachel Moss Times Higher Education)

Excellent ... perhaps Castor's greatest achievement is to remind us of just how extraordinary Joan was. (Linda Porter Literary Review)

'Compelling ... [Castor] succeeds triumphantly in rescuing [Joan] from the various straitjackets in which she has been confined ... a fascinating and privileged insight.' (Christopher Hart Sunday Times)

An elegant, subtle biography of great historical integrity and sensitive understanding. Castor lets the humanity of Joan's story shine through. (Kate Mosse Evening Standard)

'A fascinating biography ... truly thrilling.' (Kathryn Hughes Daily Mail, Book of the Week)

'Enlightening ... [an] elegant and vivid account.' (The Times Charles Bremner)

Book Description

Joan of Arc, by Helen Castor, is the story of Joan of Arc as you have never read it before, excitingly retold by one of our finest historians.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By S Riaz HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Writing the biography of a medieval figure is always a difficult undertaking. However, the life of Joan the Maid is better documented than most, largely due to the transcripts of her trial for heresy and the subsequent investigation which cleared her name twenty five years after her death. Author Helen Castor attempts not only to tell her story, but to put her life - and death - in context, within the history of a turbulent time for France, by interpreting the trial transcripts and of making clear the religious beliefs of the time.

The book begins with the battle of Agincourt, of feuds and factions, and France a fractured kingdom. It is important to point out that Joan herself does not put in an appearance during the first part of this book. However, for many readers (myself included), who know little about the events of this time, understanding the politics and factions that abounded at the time help set the scene. We first read of Joan's appearance at about a quarter of the way into this read, when she arrives at Chinon, having tried, unsuccessfully, to reach the king the previous year. It is now 1429 and Joan, a village girl, still in her teens, in men's clothes, says she has been sent by God not just to instruct the king but to help him recover his kingdom from the English. If only the king would give her an army, she would drive the English out of France and lead him to his coronation. This message, obviously puts Charles in a quandary - if he followed a false prophet, this would lead to disaster. In the same way, rejecting a true prophet would be equally catastrophic.

Time and again, Joan had to prove herself. Initially, she had to prove her integrity, her maidenhood, her faith and habits to Charles.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Aleisha Turner on 30 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover
I was given this book as a Christmas present and it only took me a day and a half to finish. It's easy to read; though there are a few places where my own knowledge of the 100 years war meant that I needed to study the family trees in the front piece, and my own curiosity lead me to reference a few Wikipedia pages to find out more about the individuals involved. At first, I was unsure about the fact that the first half of the book was devoted to setting the historical context in which Joan emerged. In the end, it was clear that understanding this context is key to understanding her role in history and how she came to be canonised after the first world war.

If you are looking for a hagiography, this might not be the best place to start, however, Castor's book distils extensive primary sources into a readable, engaging piece of writing.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 1 Oct. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
This is an intelligent and detailed re-telling of the story of Joan of Arc, to give her her English name. Castor is alive to the problems of the sources, many of which are either politically or religiously biased, and/or written so far after the events that their agenda is to re-tell their own story of Jeanne. Despite that, though, no historian can avoid them, and can only be self-consciously aware of the distortions, inconsistencies and contradictions raised by the historical record.

At the same time, Castor tries to tell the story not through modern eyes but in its own terms: she doesn’t, therefore, ask questions about the reality of Jeanne’s voices and what they might tell us about her mental or physical state, but instead views the story via the theological conceptions of the fifteenth century. What was at stake for the church at the time was the question of whether the voices came from heaven or from hell – and, thus, whether Jeanne was a messenger of god or the devil.

This isn’t always an easy read as Castor uncovers the complicated politics of the period – and she starts with Azincourt, when Jeanne was just a baby in order to set the political scene onto which Jeanne bursts. She is also very conscious of the gender issues prompted by Jeanne’s story – as were contemporaries such as Christine de Pizan who claimed Jeanne as a feminist icon already in the fifteenth century.

So this isn’t hard-core academic history but is a book which expects, and repays, close attention – not a light holiday or bed-time read, but recommended for a modern and self-aware reading of the Maid of Orleans.

(This review is from an ARC courtesy of the publisher)
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By RWLM on 8 Dec. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Engagingly and accessibly written. But marred by occasional superficial judgments.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By EleanorB TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 5 Nov. 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have read a number of books about Joan of Arc, both fact and fiction. This one is very scholarly, very well researched and very illuminating. This author has not sensationalised the story, which is in itself almost stranger than fiction, but has sought to put the events, the people, their physical, military and religious environment into context.

By taking us back a few years from the emergence of the Maid, Castor has painted a vivid picture of the factional, and bloodthirsty, state of politics in France at that time, with its king tipping into periods of madness and English/Burgundian armies bent on taking the Valois throne for Henry the Fifth and his heirs. She cleverly sets the scene for the emergence of a charismatic female figurehead to reinvigorate the exhausted French troops and lift the less than charismatic Dauphin to his God blessed destiny. She does rather gloss over the fact that Joan must have had a patron or patrons behind her - access to the Dauphin would have been controlled quite carefully. Yolande of Aragon, his mother-in-law, for one had a clear vested interest.

The narrative sets the scene, introduces The Maid, follows her career, her downfall, death and eventual posthumous rehabilitation with the overturning of the verdict that led to her martyrdom. The words quoted are the actual voices of the late medieval period - real people who witnessed real events - very powerful!

This is good well written history which takes the reader very much into the contemporary mindset and makes these long ago events accessible to the modern world. I recommend this as first class history, rather than a biography which it really is not. I should also mention that the illustrations, particularly the portraits, are superb.
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