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King's College History Department

Book Review

D’Orliac, Jehanne. Joan of Arc and Her Companions. New York: John Lane Company, 1908.

      Joan of Arc and her Companions was written by Jehanne D’Orliac and was published in 1934. D’Orliac is a twentieth century author. Very little is written about her, and even through hours of searching for any data on her, the information that is written has eluded me. I have found only one other book which she has written, Francis the I. This can mean one of two things. First it could be showing that she was an expert on this time and felt that she could only write on subjects which she was knowledgeable about. Secondly it could mean that her work went unnoticed and that her writing style was poor. But through reading this book I opt to believe the first one.

 The background of Joan of Arc is a simple one to follow. Joan was born in France on January 6,1412. While she was still in her youth a war broke out between England and France. The Duke of Burgundy sided with England and as a result split France in two.

Joan was a very religious child and when she was thirteen, she heard the voices of saints Michael, Margaret and Catherine. The voices told her to go to the King’s generals and with a plan to defeat the English. At first she was mocked and laughed at, but her devotion and passion prevailed. In 1429 she was finally given command.

            The French troops rallied behind her and won victories that were considered to be miracles. But the war with Burgundy dragged on. In 1430 Joan once again was forced to take the field. She was captured and sold to the English who feared her and wanted her dead. They held her on charges of witchcraft. She was chained at the neck, wrists, and ankles. She brought about so much sympathy that her trial had to take place away from the public. She was found to be a misbeliever and was sentenced to be burn. At the sight of the stake she made a hasty reaction and signed an agreement to never wear men’s clothes again. But either as a trick or through her own change of heart she put on armor and was again sentenced to death this time without recourse. She died on May 30, 1430. In 1456 she was cleared of all charges, but was not canonized until 1920.

The book was written in a way that made it very easy to read.  It was basically written like a novel, which made it simple to follow.  Eventhough this style of writing made it effortless to read, it made me wonder if it was all historically correct.  It is very hard to determine if they actually said and did some of the things mentioned.  The book made it look like she was just a tool used by Yolanda of Anjou and then cast aside like a piece of rubbish.

            In the book the exact date of Joan’s birth is unknown, it was estimated somewhere between 1410 and 1412.  Her father, Jacques d’Arc was a native of Ceffonds in Champagne. His wife was Isabelle and she was from Vouthon, a village to the northwest of Domremy. The family has seem to taken their name from the village of Arc in Barrios. Jaques and Isabelle had three children before Joan: Jaques, Catherine, and Jean. Pierre came along after Joan to finish the family tree.

 Domremy-de-Greux was the name of the town that Joan was born in but it is now called Domremy-la-Pucelle which is on the border between the Duchy of Bar and the Duchy of Lorraine.  Domremy was not a desolate village in the middle of nowhere.  It was on a busy road between Langres and Verdun, which was constantly being traveled by pilgrims and soldiers.  This brought new faces through the town daily with new stories to be told.

Jehanne D’Orliac has written very interesting book. Elisabeth Abbott completed the authorized translation from French to English. There are thirteen illustrations and three maps, which make the book more interesting. When reading the book and then referring to a picture or a map, it gives you an idea of where you are and what the author is talking about. This helped me out when I was reading because I had something to look at and it gave me a picture in my mind.

It would be difficult for a historian to write a book of the dramatic events of the life of the Maid and not enhance the stories a bit. I do not believe that this made the book less credible though. History is not always the most interesting thing to write about. Therefore in order to make it an easy to read story, it is a necessity to embellish the facts. But sometimes if one looks more closely at history itself, it can make a profound influence, without any exaggeration.

The part that impacted on me was that Joan was just a regular person from a peasant family. But this peasant girl had a little more to offer the world. While in her fathers garden, she heard voices Of St. Michael and St. Catherine (in reality she heard the voice of St. Margeret as well). These messengers of God told her that she would save the king, thus shaping her future. This was just a peasant girl who has no impact on the government, but was able to get the king and queen to listen to her. She had no status that would make her a reliable source. That is what makes this story so interesting. It is very believable for me seeing that her being a peasant was of little importance and that she had such a big impact on history.

At times this book became difficult to read because of all the historical background it gave. These were the parts that needed elaboration in order to hold interest.  It told who was in charge of what areas and what most of the problems were at the time. I found myself very uninterested while reading these parts.  At one point in time I even checked to see if I had gotten the correct book! The title itself did not follow through.  Joan of Arc and her Companions was not a good description of the book.  It did not talk about her friends or even the people that surrounded her.

I received the idea that everyone at first did not want to believe Joan. Then everything she said she had said had come true. Everyone who had previously rallied around her later turned their back on her. This reminds me of how everyone wants you friendship when you are on top, but when you’re not, everyone tosses you by and forgets you. It’s simply the bandwagon effect.

But the part that gets me is how Joan saved France and everyone was happy. The peasant girl who heard messages from St. Catherine and St. Michael did what the voices told her. After leading the army to victory, how then could everyone turn on her and accuse her of sorcery? The irony of the situation is that they burn her and then years later make her a saint. Some people make me question their motives. But Joan of Arc has made a profound impact on the world and helped to make it what it is today. She is now rightfully the Patron Saint of France.


Lightbody, Charles Wayland. The Judgements of Joan. Cambridge, Mass.: 1961.

This book gives a basic overview of the life of Joan of Arc .It gives you all the basic information that goes along with her life and her deeds. Charles Lightbody gives examples of the conclusions that we have drawn from Joans life.

West-Sackville, V. Saint Joan of Arc. New York : The Literary Guild, 1936.

This book was written in a way that you could recognize that the author did her research. Sackville-West has written a very useful book that could be used for doing research on Joan .Along with the text are pictures which give you an idea of the area of the world



King's College URL: http://www.kings.edu/womens_history/reviewdorliac.html
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Written by Matt Gingo, 2000 December 5
Last Revision: 18 December 2001
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