Book Review: Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliot

Voices The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliot

Voices The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliot

Rating: 3/5

Joan of Arc has always been a fascinating person of history to me. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc caught my eye for several reasons. 1) The cover is mesmerizing 2) the book is in verse 3) I saw many good reviews about it.

About Joan of Arc

Even though Joan of Arc is a popular historical figure, I am going to share a quick biography overview just to be thorough. Joan of Arc, also known as the Maid of Orléans and St. Joan of Arc, was born a farmer’s daughter in 1412 in Domrémy, France. Sixteen year old Joan, believing that she was being directed by God, led the French army to victory against the English at the pivotal battle of Orléans. Joan’s leadership helped prevent the English from conquering France during the Hundred Year’s War and aided in the coronation of Charles the Dauphin of France.

Because of these accomplishments, Joan became a national heroine of France. Joan was then later captured, tried as a heretic, and burned at the stake in 1431 at the age of 19. She was canonized as a saint in 1920. Check out a more in depth biography on Joan of Arc at Encyclopedia Britannica.

Review of Voices:

What I liked:

There were several things that I liked about this book. First, it gave a new perspective on her story through verse. Each poem is from the “voice” objects and people in her life with excerpts from primary sources of her trial. Second, the text of the poems were shaped as the object that was speaking. For example, there was a poem in the voice of her sword and the text was printed in the shape of a sword. Third, the author used different medieval forms of poems throughout the book. And lastly, the book is very short and is a quick read.

What I didn’t like:

The plot was hard to follow. Even though the title describes the story as Joan’s final hours, the poems start from the beginning of when she started to hear voices. The excerpts are mixed in with the poems, almost like flash forwards, which created a disjointed story line. There were also several poems from the point of the view of the fire that burned her, which became repetitive. I ended up skimming those. The medieval poem forms were sometimes too much for me to enjoy the poetry and comprehend them at the same time. There were several instances of innuendos/sexualized descriptions that I felt were unnecessary and off-putting. I mean come on! Joan of Arc was a pious and devout young woman who was canonized as a saint!

Final thoughts:

Despite the slightly challenging plot development, I appreciated the fresh take on Joan of Arc’s life and the poetry aspect of the book. Please don’t use this as your only impression of Joan of Arc if you are not familiar with her life story or the events that happened during her time. The book does not do her justice. Book Riot has a great list of books about Joan of Arc for children, teens, and adults. I would recommend this particular book for readers who:

  • are interested in stories about Joan of Arc
  • fans of poetry
  • fans of medieval era history and/or French history
Interesting Links:

There have been multiple biopic movies of Joan of Arc that span a great number of years. Check out the list here. I have only seen one, The Messenger, starring Milla Jovovich and John Malkovich, which was released in 1999.

One of my favorite things about Joan Of Arc, is the number of amazing artworks out there that depict her. Here are a few of my favorites:

Jeanne d’Arc interrogated in prison by the cardinal of Winchester, 1824, Paul Delaroche
Joan of Arc, 1865, John Everett Millais
Capture of Joan Of Arc, 1847-1852, Adolf-Alexander Dillens

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