Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review - "Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc" by Mark Twain

This novel was Mark Twain's last completed work which he considered to be the best of all his books. He claimed that he had spent twelve years in its research and two in writing. One of his key sources of research was Jules Quicherat's Proces de Condamnation et de Rehabilitation de Jeanne d'Arc

As a historical novel, this is one of those that let me learn a great deal about the historical background and the historical character(s) while keeping me emotionally engaged with the plot. It was not a fast read, but by the time I finished reading, I felt glad that I had picked up the book.

As already mentioned in numerous other reviews, Twain's deep fascination with and affection for Joan of Arc shines through the entire novel. It's been pointed out that in writing this book, the author made a deliberate departure from his well-known comedic style, as he wanted readers to take it seriously. Be that as it may, I find that his innate sense of humor is all too readily discernible.

Joan's story is without question a compelling and poignant one. The fact that an illiterate teenage French peasant girl was able to make such a stunning impact on late middle-ages history of France and England, more specifically on the outcome of the infamous Hundred Years' War, is reason enough for history lovers to read this important account of her humble and glorious life.

As with many historical novels set around this period in Europe, religion plays an important part in the factual details and plot twists. In the case of Joan of Arc's story, this passage can best describe how some French Catholic priests, in depraved conspiracy with the English nobility, have a hand in deciding her tragic fate:

The Church was being used as a blind, a disguise; and for a forcible reason: the Church was not only able to take the life of Joan of Arc, but to blight her influence and the valor-breeding inspiration of her name, whereas the English power could but kill her body; that would not diminish or destroy the influence of her name; it would magnify it and make it permanent. If the Church could be brought to take her life, or to proclaim her an idolater, a heretic, a witch, sent from Satan, not from Heaven, it was believed that the English supremacy could be at once reinstated."

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