The Maid (Hardcover)
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH), 9780547427522, 287pp.
Publication Date: October 18, 2011
Behind the girl rides her army of ten thousand warriors, all of them united by the same strange and feverish joy as they crash across the winter fields, through the white land and toward the shadowed stillness of the pines. She is seventeen, a peasant, unschooled, simple as a thumb. But on this morning, she is simply God's arrow, shot across the winterland, brilliant and savage and divine. Unstoppable.
It is the fifteenth century, and the tumultuous Hundred Years' War rages on. France is under siege, English soldiers tear through the countryside destroying all who cross their paths, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents' garden in Domremy, a peasant girl sees a spangle of light and hears a powerful voice speak her name. Jehanne.
The story of Jehanne d'Arc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imaginations for centuries. But the story of Jehanne--the girl--whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and to fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her, is at once thrilling, unexpected, and heartbreaking. Rich with unspoken love and battlefield valor, The Maid is a novel about the power and uncertainty of faith, and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame.
Praise For The Maid…
"Cutter makes the story of Saint Joan worth retelling by breathing new life into these characters and dramatizing the complex politics of their era in a strikingly engaging way. We see the bloody battles, the relationships formed and destroyed. We are with her when her voices fade, dimmed by stone walls and men's agendas. . . .[The Maid] does what all the best historical novels do: It raises the ongoing questions we need to ask ourselves." -- Brunonia Barry, Washington Post"No one has ever written a fictional treatment of Joan of Arc that encompasses 'The Maid of Orleans' the way Kimberly Cutter has. From Jehanne's poverty-stricken upbringing, to her peculiar relationship with France's Dauphin, to her bloodthirsty battle actions and finally, to her sad last days, this book brings a misunderstood figure to blazing life." -- Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"A fiery portrait of one of history's most exalted heroines. Cutter's lavish imagery is outstanding and her dynamic characters are truly absorbing. The Maid is a triumphant re-imagining of a courageous, faithful and remarkably resilient woman." — Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana and A World on Fire
"Cutter brings fresh insight to the story of Joan of Arc in this dynamic page-turner...The exhilaration of her many triumphs on the battlefield, the bloody combat, the deadly jealousies and political machinations that begin her undoing, and her tragic end are portrayed with vivid imagination and brio. In this stunning debut, Cutter pays vibrant homage to this legendary woman." — Publishers Weekly, starred review"The Maid is a brilliant portrait of Joan of Arc that peels away the layers of myth to reveal the inner world of an astonishing human being. Cutter has given new life to one of the most incredible women of all time." — Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- How does Jehanne’s faith evolve? How do others view her faith? How did you?
- Could Jehanne have performed such feats today as she did then? Are there contemporary equivalents? If someone came to you today and told you she was hearing voices, what would you do? Would you believe her, or commit her? Would it make a difference if that person were a person of faith, either Catholic or Muslim or Jewish?
- Look at the instances in which Jehanne performs violent acts. How are these portrayed? Do you believe Jehanne killed in battle, as The Maid suggests? “‘You miraculous creature, you’ve done it.’ ‘God did it,’ Jehanne said, thinking of the dead man with the knife in his throat. Thinking, But who did that? Did He or did I?” (p. 209). Is it possible to kill and still be pure, a saint? What absolves Jehanne of those murders, if so?
- Why are the men’s clothing and the suit of armor so important to Jehanne? How does she transform according to what she has on? How does clothing define us?
- “You think there’s such a thing as a good war, a justified war? You think there’s such a thing as honest blood?” (p. 266). Does Jehanne believe there is? Do you? Compare the war Jehanne fought to the wars ongoing today. Are there any similarities?
- Why do the voices desert Jehanne? What sort of doubt does Jehanne struggle with and why do you think she had to go through that? Did Jehanne ever err in her faith or her responsibilities? Were these human fallibilities? What elevated her to sainthood?
- Jehanne was burned at the stake, the townspeople shouting, “Witch!” What is the fine line between being a witch and a saint? How does that tie into Jehanne’s doubt later in the novel? Consider also the many other stories of witch trials and how they were similar to or different than Jehanne’s trial.
- Why is it so important that Jehanne remain a virgin? Was she? Does it matter?
- Did Jehanne really hear voices or was she mentally ill? What do you think? What does the author believe?
- How is the Joan of Arc portrayed in The Maid different or similar to the Joan of Arc you knew before reading the novel? What did you learn? What makes Kimberly Cutter’s version of events unique? Can you learn more from a novel than you can from a biography? What liberties does the novelist have in situations like this?