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Joan of Arc

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  388 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
One would expect nothing less from Gordon (Spending) than a splendid, spare account of Joan's life -- and she delivers in this slender but satisfying account, a new entry in the Penguin Lives series. The facts of Joan of Arc's life are straightforward: she was born in 1412, in Domremy, France, to a peasant family; she participated in the Hundred Years' War but was in activ ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published March 20th 2000 by Viking Adult (first published 2000)
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Carol Storm
Jun 03, 2016 rated it did not like it


Nothing is more depressing than reading the New York Times Book Review. It’s just so smug, so orthodox. And at the same time so phony. Take Mary Gordon, for example. Just the other day Mary Gordon wrote a front page review praising the new novel by Louise Erdrich, the famous Native American author. Now I’ve got nothing against Louise Erdrich, but I’ve been reading the novels and essays of Mary Gordon for over thirty years. And by the time I finished reading the r

Kiran Poet
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Short, bittersweet, to the point; Mary Gordon delivered. Joan of Arc received the honor she deserved. Nothing was lost and much insight was gained reading this gem of a book. If not for having loved Chapters 1-6 and 8, Chapter 7 would had been pointless.

Mary Gordon reviews The Messenger and Joan of Arc in Chapter 7. Milla Jovovich starred in The Messenger and Leelee Sobieski in Joan of Arc. Mary Gordon said of Sobieski, "...looks the part, although she delivers her lines with the flatness of a d
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
Joan of Arc
This was a quick, easy read. I found the text to be easily accessible to those not familiar with Joan, however, it is a very broad overview. It's a good starting text with some interesting analysis for those who don't want to jump into a heavier text. There were some points where I found myself disagreeing with the author, however, specifically:
"In our age, when the consequences of loss of virginity are slight ..."
This is simply not true. People with vaginas are still being ostraci
Feb 01, 2012 rated it liked it
I would have given the book a higher rating if it hadn't been for the last chapter. I had no desire to read about all the things ever created using Joan of Arc as the protagonist. Boring. Gordon went a long way in establishing the context surrounding Joan; how Joan fit into society and how that society was created the myth, legend and icon that is Joan of Arc. It very intriguing how an uneducated, religious peasant girl is able to lead the army of France into battle to allow the dauphin Charles ...more
Donald Jodon
Nov 06, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: religion
This is a good book, but ultimately it is not something spectacular. Mary Gordon does a good job of trying to relate Joan of Arc to a modern audience. But the biography is just too short to be considered anything but a topical look at the life of one of the Catholic Churches oddest saints. She did hear voices from God telling her what to do, but the book almost has you thinking "well, she was crazy, not religious". I don't think this is true, but the material presented is so brief that this imag ...more
Nov 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Close your eyes and try to think back to when you were nineteen years-old. What did you accomplish in your life up until that point? Whatever it was, it probably doesn't compare to Joan of Arc, the young French girl who left home, became a soldier, led French troops to victory, and then eventually crowned the King of France. And if that wasn't enough, the Catholic Church made her a saint (but that was long after she had died). If your looking for a biography on a historical figure who inspires, ...more
Mar 16, 2009 rated it liked it
What did she look like, anyway? Best guess is that she was a short stocky peasant-type, not the willowy pretty figure that any number of movies have made her out to be. Interesting fact: over 20,000 books about her in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris - people read themselves into her, mainly that the most unlike people have tremendous potential in themselves, and so she never goes out of date.
Sep 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this book, but feel like it only skimmed the surface about Joan of Arc. She's still as enigmatic to me now as she was before I read the book. I wish the author had gone a little deeper and actually proposed some explanation as to what was motivating Joan. Or, some would say, what was wrong with Joan. There were theories, but they seemed very disorganized to me. Just a lot of "maybes." But, still, a good read for someone who is just being introduced to Joan of Arc.
Arlene Allen
Jul 07, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir-biography
with over twenty thousand works about Joan of Arc it was hard for Gordon to narrow down her focus, especially for such a small volume. I felt I only got a tip of the ice berg into who she really was.
Oct 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
More than a chronology of Joan's life, this is more in the form of essays commenting on different aspects of her life and legend. Gordon is an astute and absorbing writer, and this is very enjoyable to anyone who has an interest in the life of Joan of Arc.
Claire Baxter
Jun 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Good introduction however there was a lot of commentary about femininity and attitudes towards virginity rather than the story of her life. This was still interesting in itself however in such a brief book I thought it was a bit unbalanced
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
This book was atypical of my reads, which might explain why I took a while to finish. It had some gems of insight into Joan's life - quotes about Joan that appealed to me. I appreciated the focus on her military experience rather than a drawn out narrative of her childhood.
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite interesting to read about a young woman, in her teens, who willingly sacrifices her life to defend her Lord. Joan of Arc's desire to fight for her country and for her faith is an early story of a determined young woman who would not be turned back by any man.
Also, quite interesting to learn how entertainment paints very different perspectives of historical figures depending upon their own approach to life.
Maren Johnson
Nov 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
It was pretty nice and short, to the point. I liked that. There wasn't too much fluff. It was purely just the story of Joan of Arc. Who's like my hero, so that's cool
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5/5.0, borderline 4. I think Gordon's rendition of Joan of Arc's life is concise and summarises some larger points in a way in which allows for a greater understanding for a larger audience. I particularly enjoyed Gordon's writing style, which I found effective and sometimes entertaining.

This book will cover the most of the story of Joan of Arc, but it spares some of the details which historians have uncovered. Moreover, it does not, in my opinion, dive too deep into Gordon's own interpretati
Apr 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, france
Mary Gordon reviews the life of Joan of Arc in this short biography in the Penquin Lives series. Joan is a hard person to fully appreciate. She was an uneducated, illiterate peasant in a land gripped by civil war as the English and their Bergundian allies were on the verge of victory over Charles VII, a dauphin who aspired to the throne but had only a weak grasp of it and was widely viewed as an illegitimate son not entitled to be King.

Enter Joan who at age 14 had visions that she should remain
Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: irp-books
As good as biographies get, this one was pretty good. I personally am not a fan of spending precious time in my life reading about someone else's (not that I'm saying books like this are a waste of time, they're just not my favorite thing). And as for the story itself, no one can say it's not at least interesting.

Joan of Arc was born in a small village in France in 1412, during the climax of the Hundred Year's war. At 12 she started talking to the voices she heard, supposedly from saints, that c
Mary-Rose MacColl
Oct 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Mary Gordon's little biography of Joan of Arc is an absolute treat. She tells us Joan defies categories and that her personal Joan is a young girl with “… a young girl’s heedlessness, sureness, readiness for utter self-surrender.” Gordon pursues Joan as this young girl which gives her work warmth and power and provides a context in which faith, courage, brashness, cross-dressing and virginity sit comfortably.

While Gordon believes Joan is much more interesting as herself than as the hero of our n
Whether or not you believe her voices were real, it is an undeniable fact that Jeanne d'Arc, a.k.a. Joan of Arc in English, was a remarkable and incredible person who accomplished things that should have been impossible or, at the very least, highly improbable. Hardly anyone would expect much from a young and illiterate peasant girl, after all. Not then, and not now. Part of what makes her so incredible is the simple fact that she was real, she existed. She's not a figure or character born of my ...more
Kirk Johnson
Oct 19, 2016 rated it liked it
When publishers set out to create series like the 'A Penguin Life' collection from whence this came, it's hard to imagine it coming to much good. I'm guessing the authors get offered some money to write a book in a certain format on a certain person, and so they do, but the result is not necessarily a labor of love. Clearly Mary Gordon cares about Joan of Arc, but the writing is a bit disorganized, as if the author were under constraints that do not suit her. Most of the pages have to do with Jo ...more
Jeff Carpenter
A bit dry.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION: "If I could, I would begin this study in a way that would defy the limits of space and time. I call it a study, or a meditation, hesitating over the honorable term biography, with its promise of authority, of scholarship, of scope and sweep. Ideally, I would present you not with pages, but with an envelope of paper strips, each with some words written on it, and a series of snapshots. I would have you open the envelope, drop the strips and photographs onto the floor, then ...more
Jun 29, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a very quick read, short and packed. You get the historical setting of the time, the 100 Year War, the factions - more than just French versus English, the characters, and of course the Inquisition. You know it ends badly but it's fascinating to read how it all transpires. Though the transcript of the trail must be long and well, boring, this book still makes you want more and so there's the thought, we'll maybe I'd like to read the trail. She sounds pretty insolent. The gall (Gaul) of ...more
Jan 07, 2017 added it
Since this is a biography, I'm not sure whether I'm in the position to rate this. I guess I am, but I feel too unexperienced to give a fair rating (and honestly, I have no clue how I feel about this. Even if I had to give a rating, I probably wouldn't be able to give one).

Anyway, you could see the author did her research well. The story was quite complicated, but hey, isn't history in itself complicated? It was refreshing to see everything I learned last year being put together. I guess I knew i
Oct 18, 2014 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amber Skantz
Jun 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really liked this one. I saw some mixed reviews, so I went into it knowing that I wasn't getting a detailed, original biography or anything like that; more of an interpretation of certain aspects of Joan's life, death, and legacy. The author's introduction (or prologue, I can't remember) makes it clear that her intention isn't an all-encompassing biographical work, but more of a series of analyses of episodic moments. All of which I really, really enjoyed; the style made it much more enjoyable ...more
Oct 19, 2008 rated it liked it
I picked this up with the Sam Harris, which I suppose was my way of balancing atheism with some sense of the history and scope of Christianity in our world. It was an interesting read, although I definitely enjoyed the subject more than the writing - Gordon obviously cherished her subject's complexity, and respected the limitations of our knowledge of her, but the language got a little too lofty. and i like lofty language.
Sep 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
One of the wonderful Penguin Lives series this examination of Joan as a complex, admirable young woman whose spirit could still inspire today's young women, puts to rest any old scepticism about the effect of "hearing voices." That one issue would seem to be the only drawback to seeing Joan as a protofeminist.
Jul 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Who knew how witty and irascible Joan of Arc was? Gordon brings the girl to life in this brief, well-researched and insightful account. An enjoyable read, the youth and contradictory words and actions of this misunderstood 17 year-old girl are fresh and endearing. If you know nothing about Joan, check this out. You'll discover a new friend and won't be disappointed.
Oct 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
This books was shit. I didn't actually finish it. It was written by someone who is neither a historian or a Catholic -- or at least, not one who believes in miracles. She seems to spend the entire narrative mocking and demeaning Joan, her visions and experiences, and her accomplishments. There's an undertone of laughter through the whole thing, which is neither informative or interesting.
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Mary Gordon was born in Far Rockaway, New York, to Anna Gagliano Gordon, an Italian-Irish Catholic mother, and David Gordon, a Jewish father who converted to Catholicism. While growing up, she attended Holy Name of Mary School in Valley Stream and for high school attended The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica, N.Y.. She is Catholic.

She received her A.B. from Barnard College in 1971, and her M.A. from
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