Joan of Arc. A woman who lived in the 1400s in France. Why does she matter to us today? How can she be relevant to lives where communication is through cellphones, travel is in cars on asphalt and concrete highways and wars are fought in cyberspace? She was a young girl who began hearing voices at an early age. She was a girl who did not choose to follow the prescribed path of a female in her time. She did not want to sew and simper. Instead she led armies.
In 1429, two years before Joan of Arc was executed, Christine de Pisan, an "esteemed poet" at the court of Charles Vi of France, wrote "her last great epic Le d ditié de Jehanne d'Arc." It was a sixty-one stanza "panegyric" (a public speech or published text in praise of someone or something.) David Elliott was caught up with the idea of writing his book in the same form that Christine de Pisan used for her Song of Joan of Arc, using eight-line stanzas.
Try as he might he tells us he couldn't work it out. So he chose instead to write this book using poetic forms that were popular during her lifetime and some that came about in the years after.
This form has an elegance to it that creates an atmosphere of gravitas throughout the entire narrative. Joan of Arc is elevated from her beginnings when she was a young girl who was expected to wash her brothers' tunics, churn, cook, sew, spin without complaint. These stanzas clothe Joan in something larger than life, in something with more grace and more power than anything woman made.
The story follows the journey she took, the choices she made to believe in herself and in the voices she heard and her determination to be true to herself and to her God, and that meant casting off her red dress and putting on the armor and the role assigned only to the men of her age. Interspersed are the voices of those who were interrogated at her Trial of Condemnation.
All the while the fire burns and rises, higher and higher.
Women today continue to be limited by the constraints of their societies. They are told by the male authorities that they can't drive cars and can't use birth control. Their lives are directed by rules they had no voice in making. Their inner voices may be talking to them just as Joan heard the voices of the Saints. That's what makes Joan of Arc matter today. She lived her truth. She was comfortable taking on power in the name of right and justice and she paid the price with her life at the age of nineteen.
Told in verse this story is a pageturner that will anger those who believe in justice for all. The weakness, the jealousy and the poison of the politics that killed Joan of Arc are not new. But the legion of women who have joined her army.... they're new... and no stake and no fire will stop them now.
208 pages 978-1328987594 Ages 13 and up
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Bestselling author David Elliott explores how Joan of Arc changed the course of history and remains a figure of fascination centuries after her extraordinary life and death. Joan of Arc gets the Hamilton treatment in this evocative novel.
Told through medieval poetic forms and in the voices of the people and objects in Joan of Arc’s life, (including her family and even the trees, clothes, cows, and candles of her childhood), Voices offers an unforgettable perspective on an extraordinary young woman. Along the way it explores timely issues such as gender, misogyny, and the peril of speaking truth to power. Before Joan of Arc became a saint, she was a girl inspired. It is that girl we come to know in Voices.--from the publisher