Review of Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc
by David Elliott
High School    Houghton    191 pp.    g
3/19    978-1-328-98759-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-358-04915-9    $9.99

In this verse novel, “voices” refers to Joan of Arc’s messages from the saints; to the various people who testified for and against her; to Joan herself; and to the objects made sentient in Elliott’s telling (dress, sword, fire, and more). “Voices” also resound in quotations from Joan’s two trials (1431 and 1455), medieval voices that dovetail nicely with the author’s choice to adhere to medieval poetic forms such as ballade, rondeau, sestina, etc. Within the poetic formality, however, Elliott highlights themes arising from our own contemporary thinking, particularly with respect to gender identity, cross-dressing, and sexuality (Joan’s dress forces her “to defer to strange, conflicting feelings that could never be expressed”; her sword declares itself “an instrument of men! A blade! Attack! Defend! Impale! Invade! Penetrate! Both tongue and phallus…”). Elliott offers no introductory account of Joan’s story; instead the vivid utterances of multiple voices and verses evoke an impressionistic narrative, one in which reader and “Maid” alike are assaulted by a cacophony of claims, demands, and enticements. The rhythms, rhyme schemes, and repetitions of the strict poetic forms muscle in on us, compelling a reading experience that resonates with the rigid social structures of Joan’s time, and especially with the compulsions she experiences.

From the March/April 2019 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre Baker
Deirdre F. Baker, a reviewer for The Horn Book Magazine and the Toronto Star, teaches children’s literature at the University of Toronto. The author of Becca at Sea (Groundwood), she is currently at work on a sequel—written in the past tense.
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Immanuel Redwright

I think David Elliott did a good job not introducing an already known character as in Joan of Arc,if he had maybe the initial pacing might have been a bit too monotonous. A Smart move by the author, great review by the way!

Posted : Apr 17, 2019 11:06


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