Customer Review

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, moving, flawed., 30 Jun. 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, by the Sieur Louis de Conte (Her page and secretary) (Paperback)
I am very happy to have read this noble and inspiring work, and maybe that should be considered the bottom line. However, I did feel that it succeeded on some levels far, far better than others. In order to understand where this work succeeds and where it falls short, I think the first thing to note is that Twain seems to have accepted uncritically (and faithfully relayed) every glowing thing his research turned up regarding Joan's words and deeds. By that, I mean that almost every dramatically important thing said or done by Twain's Joan can be traced to the testimony of her contemporaries. If we find it plausible that her enthusiastic contemporary allies and admirers stretched the truth here and there, one suspects that Twain the story-teller nevertheless approves. I believe it was Twain's intent to drop this semi-historical "Joan as legend" into his work intact, rather than risk reconstructing the human Joan to his own specifications. There is actually much to admire in this approach. However, it does render Twain's Joan seriously out of phase with his other characters. She is so omniscient and devoid of human frailties as to render her somewhat flat and colorless. Her almost unerring judgement and profuse gift of prophecy often cause her to blend into the backdrop of events. Here she seems less a human being (however sublime) than a force of nature. Twain's true characters become satellites circling a brilliant but dismayingly distant sun. On the other hand, the interplay between these supporting characters is engaging (if sometimes outrageous); and the dialogue is perceptive and lively. Another saving grace is Twain's descriptive gift. I have rarely read a book that made reality melt away and brought to life visions of another time and place so forcefully. I can't speak to how accurate Twain's portrayal of war-torn 15th century France might be, but it is indisputably powerful. This isn't the work I would turn to for a better understand of the human Joan or the history "behind" the legend. However, if your aim is to enjoy a descriptive and inspiring drama while getting an inkling of how Joan's allies might have regarded her, Twain's effort delivers admirably.
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