Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
If this just told the story of Joan of Arc, the peasant girl who heard the voices of dead saints, led an army to support an uncertain king, was burned at the stake as a man-dressing sorceress, and later became canonized as a saint, that would be enough to make Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured a truly interesting book, but there is more to this biography than a detailed recitation of facts about her life. Along with relevant historical background author Kathryn Harrison also includes how each stage of Joan’s crusade to serve God and save France has been portrayed in popular myth, theatrical plays, cinematic film, and various works of visual art. Because of this expanded scope the book presents a larger picture of political history, and the history of culture, religion, common attitudes, and underlying beliefs than Joan’s tale alone would tell.
The writing is a smooth weaving of history, biography, legend, and reflection, and along the way Harrison corrects some common misperceptions about Joan, for instance she wasn’t quite the simple peasant many people then thought and still think she was. Harrison deftly compares Joan’s speeches, actions, and short life with those of Jesus, both to show how well versed in the Bible Joan herself must have been and to help explain why her story resonated so much with the highly religious people of her time. It’s an astounding story, well told, both inspiring and tragic.