Women's History Resource Site

King's College History Department


Book Review

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

     There are many historical books written about the woman known as Joan of Arc.  Many authors write their book with some type of area of interest toward Joan, whether it is positive or negative. This book showed that the author did substantial research when writing this book

Victoria Sackville-West has shown through her writing sympathy and respect for Joan.  Victoria was born in 1892 and died in 1962.  She was an English poet and novelist, and a member of the aristocratic Sackville family. Her other works include The Edwardians(1930), All Passion Spent(1931), and many others.  Victoria and one of the great writers at the time, Virginia Woolf, were great friends. Some of Sackville-West’s life was portrayed in Woolf’s witty novel Orlando(1928).

Saint Joan of Arc was written to answers questions about Joan and to educate the reader.  Every page in the book had at least one footnote, while one page had  seven. There were also certain points in the book that would be numbered, then at the bottom of the page was a full explanation of the sentence and exactly who wrote it. An example of this is "Boisaguillaume, Taquel, and Manchon, all three of them terrorized …." In the footnote it elaborates in saying that Boisguillaume was a clerk for the trail, Taquel a clerk for the Inquisition, and that Manchon was the clerk for Cauchon, the judge.  This shows that she has done extensive research to know the occupations of these people. There is another illustration that talks about the people who attended her trial. In Appendix F, it gives the complete list of the names of the people who were in the trial. This also shows that she has researched the topic carefully because every time she makes a point, she gives credit to where she found the information.

The author’s style of writing was beneficial to the reader. For instance, in one part of the book she says that the state of affairs she is going to address is to complicated to understand in paragraph form. She made it much easier to follow and understand by numbering the individual paragraphs with only the important facts.

 Throughout the book, Sackville-West asks the reader rhetorical questions that I found extremely interesting and very helpful. To start with she begins by telling the reader that no contemporary portrait of Jeanne d’Arc is known to exist. Then she asks the reader how we know what she would have looked like. For instance on page five the author asks, "Was she tall or short?"   Then it goes on to tell that the Chronique de Lorraine describes her as tall. But this she says is not a reliable source. Then it tells of an Italian solider who saw her and describes her as short. Finally she rationalizes that when dressed in men’s clothes; women tend to look smaller due to oversized clothes.

To show the validity of her work, V. Sackville-West has cited all of forty-six books she has used for information The assortment of information comes from books written about Joan’s trial, her life, special studies, topography research, and historical books. There is also a chronological table of events that stream from The Hundred Years War in1337 to the canonization of Joan by Pope Benedict XV in 1920.

 The Appendices were also very helpful in understanding the book. In this part, she elaborated further on each subject. This part was very explicit in fine details such as Hauves Poulnoir painting a standard of Joan for 25 livre topurnois. In Appendix G, it gave a translation from Latin to English to a letter from the trial that is shown in a picture. Appendix K gives a simple outline of the miracles that Joan had performed. This part made it extremely easy to follow and learn about Joan.  She even gives her rational ideas of what could have happened in certain instances. There is a part the talks about the change of wind at Orleans with her stating that it is not that unlikely for the wind to change direction.  One of the most interesting things I found was that the author commented on what happened to Joan’s family. I think that most people would not even think of finding this information in the book.

 In closing I would say that this book would be very useful in doing research on Joan of Arc. The text was not difficult read and I even think it was written in a way that was favorable to the reader. The size of the writing was perfect in that you did not need your glasses, but it was not child-like big letters. There were maps, actual pictures of parts of France, and letters from Joan’s trial. This book would be one of the best in depicting  the life and times of Joan with little bias.




Gies, Frances. Joan of Arc The Legend and the Reality. New York: Harper and Row, 1959.

This book gives an overview of Joan of Arc’s life. It touches on the subject of Joan put into complicated situations. Frances Gies touches on Joan’s life as a female hero.She talkes about Joans accusers and her trial. The author gives the reader a discription of Joan’s attitude and her life.


Smith, Holland. Joan of Arc. New York: Charles Scribner's sons, 1973.

The author puts Joan up on a pedistalI for her accomplishments. Holland Smith talks about how Joan has become an inspiration to women across the world. The book tells how Joan heard voices from her early life as a child which motivated her to save her country. It contains illustrations  to increase the validity of the book.



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