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Joan of Arc (English Edition) [Format Kindle]

Helen Castor

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Présentation de l'éditeur

Acclaimed historian Helen Castor brings us afresh a gripping life of Joan of Arc. Instead of the icon, she gives us a living, breathing young woman; a roaring girl fighting the English, and taking sides in a bloody civil war that was tearing fifteenth century France apart.

Here is a portrait of a 19-year-old peasant who hears voices from God; a teenager transformed into a warrior leading an army to victory, in an age that believed women should not fight. And it is also the story behind the myth we all know, a myth which began to take hold at her trial: that of the Maid of Orleans, the saviour of France, a young woman burned at the stake as a heretic, a woman who five hundred years later would be declared a saint.

Joan and her world are brought vividly to life in this refreshing new take on the medieval world. Helen Castor brings us to the heart of the action, to a woman and a country in turmoil, a world where no-one - not Joan herself, nor the people around her, princes, bishops, soldiers or peasants - knew what would happen next.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2578 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 359 pages
  • Editeur : Faber & Faber Non Fiction; Édition : Signed ed (30 septembre 2014)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
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  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°134.382 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Amazon.com: 4.3 étoiles sur 5  10 commentaires
8 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Joan of Arc 2 octobre 2014
Par S Riaz - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
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. She was questioned by theologians and had to try to prove her authenticity before undertaking her mission. Joan travelled to Orleans and the scarred and hungry town reacted with hope to the news of this miraculous maid coming to save them. Indeed, the siege was lifted within four days and it seemed a miracle. This book follows her onwards - always trying to convince those around her to fight against English rule - and on to her capture. As a prisoner, accused of heresy, she again faced of interrogation. Only this time, she was not arguing to help her king, but effectively to save her life. If she was found guilty she would burn, if not she might be spared.

This is a fascinating read, which really puts the life of Joan of Arc is historical perspective. It gives great background, looks at Joan as an icon, a saint, a heroine and a woman who fought in a man's world. It examines what she achieved, gives insight into her trial and how remarkably self possessed she was despite her age and shows, with real poignancy, how vulnerable she was. Although I do feel I know much more about Joan and her place in history, and understand why the author approached her story in the way she did, I did feel at the end that I might have liked to have read more about her life before she entered the historical arena by approaching the king. I understand why the author used the trial transcripts to look at her personal history, and that we are lucky so much remains to help reconstruct her life; but I felt that, although I understood her more, I still did not really know this elusive young woman. Overall, though, this is an enjoyable, and readable, biography, which is especially good for those who know little about the historical period in which Joan of Arc lived. Lastly, I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
8 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 More history than biography... 29 octobre 2014
Par FictionFan - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle
Helen Castor begins this retelling of the life of Joan the Maid by explaining that, although her story is better documented than most from this period, it isn't always possible to take the sources at face value. Since her legend was being created while she was still alive, and since so much hung on the idea of which side in the war had the support of God, then an inevitable bias has to be expected in the various accounts of her actions and words. So Castor has set out to put Joan's story into the context of the times, and to do that she starts fourteen years before Joan appears, taking us back to Agincourt, and then working forward.

This is a fairly short book, actually more history than biography. It's well-written and therefore easy to read, and Castor explains the various alliances and enmities clearly - having very little previous knowledge of the period, I was able to follow the various shifting loyalties without too much difficulty, and undoubtedly feel better informed about the events and personalities of the time. She describes the background to the feud between the Burgundians and the Armagnacs which split the French resistance to the English claim to the throne. And she shows how the English policy towards any final peace was circumscribed by the infancy of the King (after Henry V's death), with his regent in France, the Duke of Bedford, feeling unable to reach decisions to which young Henry VI might object when he came to power.

By taking this approach, by the time of Joan's arrival on the scene, Castor had built up enough of a picture of the near desperation of the Armagnac faction that it made it slightly less inexplicable why they would have been willing to give credence to this young girl, claiming to have been sent by God to lead an army and ensure the coronation of Charles VII. But only slightly. Though Castor does make clear the importance of religious symbolism and signs at the period, I felt that the crucial point of how exactly Joan got access to the French King remained a little vague. Castor tells us the events - when it happened, who accompanied her, etc., - but left me with no real feeling of why initially any of the important men around the King took her seriously. However, once having rather shimmied past that bit, Castor's descriptions of Joan's involvement in the war and subsequent capture and trial are very well told, with the various political pressures on all sides being clearly explained.

So as history the book works well, especially for someone like myself coming new to the period, though I did wonder if it was in depth enough to add much for people with a reasonable existing understanding of the people and events. I didn't feel it worked quite so well as biography however. Perhaps there isn't enough information available to make it possible, but I didn't come away from it feeling that I really understood Joan as a person. There is little about her background prior to her arriving at Charles' court, and after that, although the events are well described, somehow her personality didn't seem to come through.

There only seem to be two possibilities about Joan - either she actually was God's emissary on earth or she was mentally ill. Castor rather oddly doesn't seem to take a view on that. On the one hand, I felt strongly that she was implicitly ruling out the possibility of Joan being visited by angels telling her that God was on France's side, or more specifically on the side of the Armagnacs. But, on the other hand, she really gave no other interpretation. Not that I'm a great fan of retrospective diagnosis of mental illnesses, but I felt the possibility at least needed to be discussed. The result was that she remained a rather nebulous figure, to me at least.

Happily Castor doesn't end the story with Joan's death. She continues with the history of the war up to the point where the English were finally driven out of France - she doesn't delve into it in depth but covers it well enough so that it provides a satisfactory overview. And she also continues Joan's story after death, with the various reviews of her trial that eventually led to her being declared innocent of heresy. The epilogue tells the final chapter in her story - her canonisation as a saint in 1920.

Overall, I found this an interesting and informative read which, while it perhaps didn't wholly satisfy me as a biography, worked very well as an introduction to the history of the period.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Faber and Faber Ltd.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Reclaiming the person behind the persona 25 février 2015
Par Malleus Maleficarum - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
Nearly a decade ago, I saw Luc Besson's 'The Messenger' - as someone who had read a lot about the 'brave', 'saintly' teenaged girl who expelled the British through the strength of her devotion to God (think Gandhi in a skirt - and with a sword in battle), Milla Jovovich's portrayal of an at times out of control, screechy and foolhardy Joan the Maid came as a shock. Now, after reading this book, it turns out, that was probably closer to the truth!
Any scholarly study of Joan of Arc has to contend with the image of a dainty, soft-spoken and sagacious country girl that has been erected over the past 5 centuries on the historical person. To her credit, Helen Castor does a commendable job in bringing out the real person behind the religious icon. To achieve this, she starts, quite correctly in my opinion, by placing Joan in the context of her time. She assigns the first third of her book to an exposition of the state of France, French society and politics in the early 15th century. I - and I'm sure many other lay readers - had the image of the English army in France as a straightforward hostile force invading a foreign land. The actual story is far more nuanced and measured - Henry V, through his ancestral linkage with the French royal family, was adopted and assigned heir by the sovereign of France himself, the troubled sovereign Charles VI who had fits of insanity that severely limited his decision making. At a time of civil unrest in France with competing factions of Armagnacs and Burgundians fighting for power, Charles legitimized the claims of Henry by marrying his daughter Catherine to him, anointing him the chosen successor and disinheriting his own son, the Dauphin Charles. Thus, far from being invaders, the English were the lawful claimants to the French throne. Additionally, at a time when the concepts of nationalism were vague at best, the English - whose nobility often had ties of blood with the French elite - were allied with some of the most powerful French factions, in particular, the Burgundians, whose ruler, Philip had a strained relationship with the Dauphin ever since his father, John the Fearless was ambushed and assassinated in a meeting with the Dauphin. In such a scenario, it was no surprise that a rampant English army, buoyed with its win at Agincourt and reinforced by local alliances, was effectively in control over large parts of France and enroute to anointing Henry as King.
It was in such a context of a land ravaged by war and shifting alliances, that the maid from Domremy, Joan made an appearance and what happened subsequently was so unexpected that it might well be called a miracle, though there was less divinity and more luck and the congruence of interests than the Church's official biography would have one believe. Infected with an incipient nationalism that was probably out of place in the 15th century, Joan was motivated by a 'France for the French' philosophy that makes her sound more Marine Le-Pen than Marianne. Unable to bear the prospect of the 'English king' being crowned at Reims cathedral, Joan made her way to the court of the Dauphin convincing him to let her lead his men to battle, assuring him that God intended him to be ruler of France. In one of the highlights of the book for me, Helen Castor refuses to yield to the urge to engage in any psychological analysis of Joan's visions and simply states that Joan was not the first or last person in 15th century France (or indeed even beyond) to claim to have visions where 'God' spoke to her. It is probably more a measure of the Dauphin's desperation than the sincerity of the Maid that he agreed to let her accompany the troops to raise the siege of Orleans. What followed was perhaps one of the pivotal moments of history - despite having no military credential, any strategic nous or even any reason to be on the battlefield, Joan and her men succeeded in raising the siege. Maybe she genuinely inspired her men, maybe the opponents were complacent against the 'rustic whore', the fact remains that Orleans was the first battle that the Armagnacs won in a long time and it had far reaching implications for the course of the war.
However, success brought Joan under greater scrutiny and this unlettered girl found herself the focal point of interest in the unfolding political tug of war underway. Her claims to divine inspiration were strongly supported by the Armagnacs and the theologians aligned to the nationalist cause - while an equal number of her opponents were quick to impute her inspiration, her voices and her success to the devil. Thus, the divine inspiration of Joan became a political football. Her supporters backed her because it legitimized their claims to the Crown - her opponents derided her for the same reason. She became a national sensation but even then, as the letters of many who met her testify, in her own time, almost no one saw her as a military genius, most considered her a curt and brazen country girl who had the gall to wear men's clothes and to paraphrase one chronicler, 'so simple-minded as to be a fool'. Joan's career was cut short when she was abducted by the Burgundians and then handed over to the British, who were keen to execute her after proving that she was of the Devil. In a trial held under English supervision, the Burgundian sympathising cardinals who examined Joan eventually had her condemned as a heretic and handed her to English custody where she was burned at the stake.
However, while Joan's life was cut short at 19 years, her legacy had a resurrection, when once again the shifting of powers and alliances in France turned the tide against the English. Philip of Burgundy was more interested in securing his northern domains and in the interests of French-ness, he and the Dauphin Charles reached an accommodation whereby Charles was acknowledged sovereign as long as he performed atonement for the death of Philip's father. Having lost their ally, the English were rapidly evicted from their French dominions and just over 20 years after the Maid's death, the last English presence in France was wiped out and the English nobility, suffering from the financial loss of their estates in France, settled into a state of civil war themselves between the Houses of York and Lancaster. Now as sovereign of France, Charles put in motion the last act of the tale of Joan of Arc by commissioning a new investigation into the divine inspiration of Joan - he could not rule with the slur of having put on the throne by a girl publicly condemned and executed as a heretic by the Church. Thus, to no one's surprise, a new tribunal heard tales of how Joan the Maid was a pure, saintly and flawless child of God, unjustly committed to the stake by a corrupt and incompetent council. Thus, the accusers of 1430 now became the accused of 1450 and Joan was exonerated and restored to honour, King Charles majesty raised as an inevitable consequence of her rehabilitation. As history is written by the victors, this is the image of Joan that has come down to us and set in stone with the Maid's canonization in the 20th century.
The author does a wonderful job of sifting through the hype and coming up with the historical Joan as we can best hope to know her. Her portrait of Joan brings out the maid with all her flaws but this is no hatchet job - there is an undertone of admiration for this young girl who displayed supreme confidence in leading men into battle at a time when the role of an ordinary peasant girl was limited to getting married, having children and cooking for the family. The real Joan was not moving to implement a predestined plan but faced moments of doubt, rejection, frustration, anger, injury and fear like any other human being. Reducing her story to that of a pawn of God in his plans for the world takes away from the true wonder of her story. The author deserves to be commending for reclaiming the person behind the saint.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Joan d'arc 6 mai 2015
Par Colshir - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
An interesting insight to a popular figure in history, however the author has chosen a pedestrian prose which makes for dry reading. Nevertheless, this book should not be bypassed by history lovers.
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Was not as happy with this one as I would have liked 10 juillet 2015
Par Greg Castro - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Was not as happy with this one as I would have liked...good background info leading up to Joan's intervention, but not as much about Joan as I had hoped.
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