Monday, 10 June 2013

Joan of Arc

I really thought that I'd love this book. It should have been a no brainer for me. Michael Morpuro is fabulous, his Private Peaceful remains one of the most moving books that I've ever read. And I've been quite fascinated by Joan of Arc since 2011. Sadly though, it wasn't meant to be.

While I'm still fascinated by Joan's story I found this book hard going. Michael Morpurgo uses a story within a story technique to tell Joan's rather famous story. Sixteen year old modern girl Eloise Hardy grows up in Montpellier under the shadow of a portrait of Joan of Arc.

Eloise is quite fascinated with Joan, and after her family moves to Orleans she enters an essay competition to win the chance to be Joan for a day, leading a procession to mark the anniversary of the relief of Orleans on May 8. Which is ok, but then Joan's story is told with Joan being kept company by a white sparrow called Belami. For some reason this annoyed me from the get go, and my interest in the book never recovered.

Of course there are interesting facts along the way (and I do believe that this is rather a faithful retelling of Joan's life).

15th century France was quite different
Joan hates the Burgundians even more than the English who have occupied Northern France for many decades.

They're of our blood, they're French, and they ally themselves with the English, parcelling up the country, my country, as they see fit. English, Burgundians, they raid and rob wherever they want, and we have no power, nor any will, it seems, to stop them.

Joan jumped from the tower at Beaurevoir

Joan was betrayed by the very king that she spent her life fighting for, the king she saw crowned in Reims. 

King Charles himself, it seemed, the king she had restored to his throne, had personally ordered the bridge to be destroyed, and the attack on Paris to be halted. Behind her back he had come to terms again with the Burgundians and the English. Paris and the north of the country would be left to the Duke of Burgundy and the English, if he could keep all the conquests to the south. The king was going to disband his army, her army, leaving the English still in France. 

Throughout Joan refers to the English as Godoms, a term unfamiliar to me, and one that I've had no success Googling. There is no glossary, and it isn't in my Shorter Oxford Dictionary either. These English Godoms were to pay 10,000 pounds for Joan. 

After her trial, Joan was sentenced to death in the cemetery at Rouen, she then recanted her story about her voices, her apparitions. The next day she was to retract her recanting, and was of course burnt at the stake in the market place of Rouen.

There were no cheers now. Many cried openly at what they had just witnessed. 'We are lost,' said one of the English soldiers. 'We have just burnt a saint.'

Also published as Sparrow
Books on France, a great 2013 challenge from Emma at  Words and Peace

Dreaming of France, a great Monday meme
from Paulita at An Accidental Blog


Paulita said...

I love your description of the book. I can see how the white sparrow could be annoying -- kind of adding a Disney aspect to it, when it's fascinating enough.
Thanks for playing along today. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

Joy said...

The illustrations are lovely. This seems like a book that might appeal to the younger reader whose not sure she likes history.

Joy's Book Blog

Phil said...

Betsy just read the Mark Twain telling of Joan of Arc. I'll send her a link to this, you guys might compare notes.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Sorry this was a bit of a disappointment. I think I'll give it a pass.

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

This author is my eldest grandson(age 10) favourite ,, I went to Rouen not far from Paris a couple of years ago and saw the Joan of Arc museum, very interesting , and Rouen is lovely , only take a couple of hours to get there ,