The Maid
Kimberly Cutter
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Buy *The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc* by Kimberly Cutter online

The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc
Kimberly Cutter
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
October 2011
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Prized away from the country she loves, Joan (Jehanne) is sold to the occupying English, her presence on earth a devilish thorn in the side of the ruthless, invading English. As she awakes in darkness, curled on a cold stone floor, the stink of urine and rotted straw burns her nostrils: “It’s clear I will die soon.”

In 1429, at the tender age of twelve, Jehanne has no idea the people of France will become as a father figure and mentor to her in a future enwrapped in the machinations of King Charles. With the love of God burning like a fever in her, Jehanne aches to be pure and brave. It’s hot and green in the garden behind her parents' house in Domremy where - for the first time - Jehanne hears the voices of the saints: Michael, Catherine, and Margaret, who speak to her and provide her with guidance.

Amid the wind in the trees and “the red harvest moon,” the hunter takes root inside. There’s a sense that everything is heightened and buzzing with life. While Jehanne mother’s hungry eyes consume her and Jehanne’s heart swells at God’s beautiful paradise in the sky, this vulnerable peasant girl must endure her father’s madness and abuse, a man who sees himself as a kind of country king of the peasants.

France has been warring with the English for as long as anyone can remember in this world of religious fundamentalism and unstable, uneasy alliances. Against that background, Jehanne waits ardently for her destiny. We see her moving through an ancient dream of rage. With the souls of her murdered countrymen assembled, Jehanne miraculously realizes she’s a part of God’s mission to go to the King and drive the English out of France.

Painting Jehanne’s vibrant landscape in cameo, Cutter writes of vast castle towers with dark slate-roofed turrets, of the uncrowned king, Dauphin Charles VII, whose words flash in Jehanne’s mind like lightning: “He’ll be the death of me.” The years pass, Jehanne tutored in riding, jousting, and swordplay as she zealously studies the attack on Orleans. Then there’s the sweet, thrilling moment and a kind of tender, delicately balanced friendship between Jehanne and her beloved soldiers.

Jehanne becomes quickly engrossed in a clash of the Dauphin’s own ambitions for France and his desire to make peace with the Burgundian Duke. Before she is sacrificed on the winds of political expediency, Jehanne must learn to do battle on a ground soaked red with blood, the air loud with the groans and screams of the dying in mountains of silver and mud, the men who see her strange, radiant tears and ache to help her, and their drive that says “fight, kill or die” as our emboldened heroine screams for vengeance.

Delivering her powerful message--the cost of belief and the high price of honor--Cutter creates a real sense of Jehanne’s passion, capturing the religious fervor that drives her fanatical protagonist through the years as the unspoiled peasant virgin rides on horseback, galloping over the fragrant spring meadows to rescue France from Hell and restore her to her former glory.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Michael Leonard, 2011

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