Book Review

Book Review | Joan by Katherine J. Chen

July 13th, 2022

| Published: July 2022, Hodder & Stoughton |
| Genre: Historical Fiction |
| Length: 368 Pages |
| Age: Adult |
| My Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ |

Girl. Warrior. Heretic. Saint? A stunning secular reimagining of the epic life of Joan of Arc, in the bold tradition of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall

1412. France is mired in a losing war against England. Its people are starving. Its king is in hiding. From this chaos emerges a teenage girl who will turn the tide of battle and lead the French to victory, an unlikely hero whose name will echo across the centuries.

Fictional books that bring real historical figures to life are some of my favourites. I feel like I’m learning about a person or period of history whilst also enjoying a beautifully written story.

I knew a little of Joan’s story before going into this, but what Katherine is able to do is make us care. She introduces us to Joan in a genius way, as a child preparing for a mock battle between her village’s children and a neighbouring one. She shows us Joan’s skills for strategy and leadership, but in a childlike situation.

She will not go any place where they don’t have trees for her to climb. She will not set foot in a house, even if it’s a house of god, that doesn’t welcome dogs.

Katherine paints Joan as a kind of outsider, who always went against her social roles. She’s energetic, helpful, a free spirit who is full of joy for life. I loved reading those early chapters, but they were also kind of bittersweet knowing where it would end.

It’s cruel of Katherine, really, to make us love this character so much knowing there can be no happy ending. But I think she wrote Joan’s story incredibly, and really did justice to this incredible historical figure. The pacing is perfect, the writing lyrical (although I don’t agree with the Mantel comparisons), and it’s a beautifully emotional reimagining or a person who is worthy of being remembered.

Thanks For Reading,
Jess X

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