The Maid by Kimberly Cutter (2011)

Book cover: The Maid by Kimberly Cutter
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“The girl who led an army, the peasant who crowned a king, the maid who became a legend. It is the fifteenth century, and the tumultuous Hundred Years’ War rages on. France is under siege, English soldiers tear through the countryside destroying all who cross their path, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents’ garden in Domrémy, a peasant girl sees a spangle of light and hears a powerful voice speak her name. Jehanne. The story of Jehanne d’Arc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imagination for centuries. But the story of Jehanne–the girl–whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her, is at once thrilling, unexpected, and heartbreaking. Rich with unspoken love and battlefield valor, The Maid is a novel about the power and uncertainty of faith, and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame”– Provided by publisher.

Library Journal Review: “…At times, the novel reads like a biography, and Cutter does adhere closely to fact, though she takes some creative liberties. VERDICT Historical fiction fans, particularly those interested in French history, will delight in Cutter’s take on this legendary character. Readers of Christian fiction will also find it enticing.”

New York Times Review:…Now, adding to the heaven-high stacks of Joan-inspired material, comes Kimberly Cutter’s first novel, “The Maid.” Cutter, formerly the West Coast editor at W Magazine, has done an impressive amount of research on the facts of Joan’s life. The main narrative is framed by scenes of Joan in prison shortly before her death and moves chronologically, beginning with the moment she first hears God’s voice in the fields at the age of 12. Throughout, Cutter evokes the novel’s medieval world with striking details. Wounds are dressed in olive oil and cotton, and stork is eaten for dinner. King Charles appears “in his white nightdress, hair trailing down his back in thin, oiled tentacles,” and a starving, naked woman stuffs dirt in her mouth “greedily, as if it were a butter tart.” But, as Twain observed, pinning down the mysterious interior of this woman -imaginatively experiencing how she came to be – has confounded many a writer, including Twain. Far too often Cutter’s Joan (or “Jehanne,” as the novel has it) is flat, overexplained, fragmented… it feels as if Cutter, unsure how to embody Joan, is in a race to get to the end of the story. To Cutter’s credit, it takes true Joan of Arc-ian boldness to attempt this oft-told story in the first place, and the reader certainly recognizes intellectually, if not viscerally, Cutter’s passion for her heroine. “

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