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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A more human, more tragic Joan of Arc
As readers, we're drawn to historical fictions, not only because they can re-vivify distant epochs, places, and events, but also because, at their best, they illuminate the lives of people who have played important roles in their own times, helping us to understand what may have motivated their choices or actions and placing us at the very heart of their stories in ways...
Published on 12 Jun 2011 by Peter Anastas

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Joan of Arc - The Maid's worst enemy
I've been fascinated by the story of Joan of Arc for almost a lifetime and I remember a journey when I was a child to Joan's beloved Church of St Catherine of Fierbois, a church that is now dedicated to the memory of this young woman and saint. So, with the image of Ingrid Bergman in my mind, one minute resolute and clad in armour and the next defenceless and tied to a...
Published on 6 Dec 2011 by Kate


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A more human, more tragic Joan of Arc, 12 Jun 2011
By 
Peter Anastas (Gloucester, MA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Maid (Hardcover)
As readers, we're drawn to historical fictions, not only because they can re-vivify distant epochs, places, and events, but also because, at their best, they illuminate the lives of people who have played important roles in their own times, helping us to understand what may have motivated their choices or actions and placing us at the very heart of their stories in ways that conventional history may not always be capable of doing. Kimberly Cutter's stunning new novel about the life of Joan of Arc, The Maid, amply fulfills the reader's desire to live and breathe history through vivid engagement with a stirring narrative. But it's also, in terms of technique, language, point of view and structure, an important novel in its own right. Seamlessly constructed, Cutter's narrative leads the reader into the violent late Medieval world of political upheaval, peasant rebellion and religious controversy, culminating in the horror of endless war, in which towns and families--whole dukedoms--are wiped out and the map of France is redrawn in blood. Through it all we hear the clear voice of Jehanne d'Arc, the illiterate farmer's daughter from Domremy, who was driven by voices she took be those of saints and angels to become the savior of her country. We struggle with her as she tries to fathom her visions, we ride into battle with her, experience her triumphs and betrayals; and we accompany her through the denouement of her final ordeal in prison. Through the constructions of history, theater and film, we are familiar with the character of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, who restored King Charles to the throne and ultimately helped to free her country from its English oppressors; but Kimberly Cutter gives us a living, breathing, infinitely more human, more vulnerable, and therefore more tragic figure of one of the most remarkable women in history through the art of her novel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great read with an artful ending, 14 May 2011
This review is from: The Maid (Hardcover)
It was hard to put this book down because it draws the reader into a credible and fascinating world of long ago with a vibrant character, Jehanne D'Arc, at its center. Then I stopped reading for a while because I didn't want the book to be over and (since we all know how the main character's life ended) I dreaded the outcome. However, the ending of this book is one of the most well-crafted that I have encountered in years. Another outstanding feature of this rendering of the story of "the maid" is how it handles her visions, which could credibly be religious or psychological phenomena, and her deeds, which might be angry and self-serving or saintly--or both. A great read that revives the story of a legendary young woman in an unforgettable way!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Joan of Arc - The Maid's worst enemy, 6 Dec 2011
By 
Kate (Oxford, Oxon United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: The Maid (Hardcover)
I've been fascinated by the story of Joan of Arc for almost a lifetime and I remember a journey when I was a child to Joan's beloved Church of St Catherine of Fierbois, a church that is now dedicated to the memory of this young woman and saint. So, with the image of Ingrid Bergman in my mind, one minute resolute and clad in armour and the next defenceless and tied to a stake, I was very interested to read Kimberly Cutter's interpretation of The Maid.

The problem with reading a novel (or watching a film) about Joan of Arc, here Jehanne, is that you know how it's going to end and the more engaged an author makes you feel with this character the more it's going to hurt. Making no attempt to avoid this inevitable conclusion, the imprisoned Maid is our companion as she explains her journey from a cell to a sympathetic bishop. This isn't an intrusive device, however. For most of the book, we follow Jehanne through her short life until its end, encountering the people she met, some of whom loved her while there were others who betrayed her.

From the moment that Jehanne gave herself up to the forces of light, angels that speak to Joan with the utmost love and care, she is a pawn in the making. It's not surprising that the Dauphin's court fall on The Maid as a potential saviour because, as this novel makes obvious, these are terrible days for France, with both the Burgundians and English raping and burning their way through the people, homes and livestock of a country.

The first half of The Maid presents an unflinching account of what it may have been like to live under constant threat. There are plenty of near escapes although Jehanne's beautiful longhaired blonde sister, Catherine, is not as fortunate. Joan's father is brutal and she is often beaten. Listening to the voices and putting her faith in them gives Joan both her calling and her charismatic appeal.

What is extraordinary about The Maid is that this is a true story (or at least a legend with truths behind it). Joan of Arc was just a teenager. She had nothing but her own strength to protect her from the soldiers around her, friend or foe. In this novel, we have a Joan who cannot remove her armour because of the protection it provides. Similarly, when she is imprisoned she refuses to take off her male clothes because of the danger of rape. When she does finally give in and put on a dress there is a very clear suggestion that her maidenhood is robbed from her.

Everyone around Joan is almost by default less than her. The men that swear an oath to her, the pitiful Dauphin, all of their stories appear almost inconsequential against the legend of Joan of Arc. And with that we have my problem with The Maid.

This is Kimberly Cutter's debut novel and she does a fine job of breathing life into a young woman of whom everyone has their own image. Fifteenth-century France is well realised and the battle scenes are horrifyingly realistic. You can well believe that soldiers would lose their lives in just a few inches of mud and water because of the weight of their armour and then there are the cannon balls giving war a new bloody terror. But Jehanne is so central to The Maid that for me her fanaticism becomes almost too much. Joan is relentless and her courage is resolute. Her fear is almost her only human trait but she does all she can to stamp it out. She has moments of weakness for the men whom she lets close enough to love her but they are fleeting. So, for me, I could never warm to Jehanne. I admired her and marvelled at her but she never escapes from that medieval world of superstition. While it is true that Joan got what she wanted - the flames ensured her sainthood - it makes her very difficult to warm to as a heroine.

This distance from Jehanne is offset by Kimberly Cutter's fine, crisp prose. The descriptions of life in the country and in the besieged citadels are extraordinarily vivid. It presents an intriguing glimpse into the medieval mind which here seems so different from today. I found the first half a compelling pageturner, but once Jehanne is fixed on her path to martyrdom and seedy politics begins to take over her fate, I began to lose my grip on the novel. Towards the end, I just wanted it over with. Ironically, it is very possible that this is due to the skill of Kimberly Cutter.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A clever reworking of an almost unbelievable historical event, 11 July 2011
By 
EleanorB - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Maid (Hardcover)
The Maid of Orleans' story is known so well, that it is a daunting prospect for any writer to put fresh flesh on these long dead bones. We know in minute detail how she was caught, sold, questioned and finally executed. We know the exact manner of her trial and death as the Church kept such meticulous records. What we will never know is what Jehanne was actually like; the saint in shining armour or, as Kimberly Cutter portrays her, an uncompromising charismatic who for a brief moment held the destiny of her country and herself, in her own small, grubby female hands.

The author has presented us with a fully rounded character, whose experiences of religious ecstasy do not preclude more earthly feelings as she admits to herself and then rejects her strong physical attraction to at least two of her followers. The saints who speak to her, may be from God, or perhaps they come from somewhere more sinister. It is their, often ambiguous, advice as much as her own uncompromising character that lead her to martyrdom.

Her emergence from rural obscurity, to become a national inspiration and treasured emblem of freedom, followed by the inevitable decline as doubts about her abilities and leadership grow, and the even more inevitable wish of the Dauphin to distance himself from the girl who helped put him on his throne, has a horrible momentum which can only end one way. For Jehanne, despite her love of God, the convent would have been too much of a compromise, and she could never again have been "ordinary". She had shown up the corruption and the incompetence of both church and state, and for that, retribution was pre-ordained.

Her isolation and fear of physical violence towards the end of her imprisonment, is palpable and it is in those moments that, to me, she is at her most vivid.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thrillingly Good Read, 13 May 2011
This review is from: The Maid (Hardcover)
There's no reason on the surface for me to love "The Maid," but I couldn't put this novel down from page one. It transcends the 'historical fiction' genre through the sheer power of its writing and the way the author brings Jehanne, the illiterate peasant girl who changed history, to indelible life. The prose is clean, clear and lyrical in a way that you don't often see in any kind of novel (in places the prose reminds me of Cormac McCarthy). It's not larded down with faux-periodisms and fake Medieval diction that would only detract from the book's authority and power. This is an unforgettable novel about a heroine who refused the life that was open to her in her time and place and, instead, led a rebellion against an occupying power and turned the tide of the 100 Years War. This is a thrillingly good read, especially the battle scenes. This is also the rare novel that takes religious belief seriously (and deals with Jehanne's visions brilliantly) without having a religious agenda itself. Don't miss this book!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, 3 July 2014
This review is from: The Maid (Paperback)
interesting but characters not fully frounded
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3.0 out of 5 stars okay, 29 Jan 2014
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This review is from: The Maid (Kindle Edition)
An okay read.not as gripping as I'd imagine it would be. Informative and had potential yet inpersonal. Probably wouldn't read again
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully written, 18 Oct 2013
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Gives a wonderful account of a well known story, bringing to life a dark period in history. Well worth a read.
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4.0 out of 5 stars I really enjoyed this, 15 Jan 2013
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This review is from: The Maid (Kindle Edition)
This book is very cleverly written... including lots of facts and information in a fictional style...there is a lot of discription which builds up great mental images of people and places, it doesnt seem to slow the story or get bogged down... and although you know the ending.. it still seems to creep up on you but isnt dwelt upon.... highly recommend this!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Totally Amazing!!, 29 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Maid (Paperback)
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I could not put it down and found the style of writing wonderfully descriptive and the narration just flowed with simple ease. I did not want the book to end, especially as I knew the sad fate that awaited the heroine.

Totally amazing novel and I cannot praise it highly enough, nor stop talking about it and encouraging my family and friends to read it!
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The Maid
The Maid by Kimberly Cutter
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