Title: The Maid and the Queen: The Secret History of Joan of Arc
Author: Nancy Goldstone
Pub. Date: March, 2012
Summary: Politically astute, ambitious, and beautiful, Yolande of Aragon, queen of Sicily, was one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages. Caught in the complex dynastic battle of the Hundred Years War, Yolande championed the dauphin’s cause against the forces of England and Burgundy, drawing on her savvy, her statecraft, and her intimate network of spies. But the enemy seemed invincible. Just as French hopes dimmed, an astonishingly courageous young woman named Joan of Arc arrived from the farthest recesses of the kingdom, claiming she carried a divine message-a message that would change the course of history and ultimately lead to the coronation of Charles VII and the triumph of France.
Sigh. I was SO ready to love this book. I’m a huge fan of both biographies and history and, while I’m not very familiar with medieval France/Joan of Arc, I was very eager to read it and learn more.
Unfortunately, I was extremely misled by the title. The Secret History of Joan of Arc? Nope. More like, The Secret History of Every King, Queen, and Duke in Medieval Europe. In the introduction, the author mentions that Yolande of Aragon, Joan’s biggest supporter, was born decades before Joan, so I wasn’t expecting Joan to show up on the first page. I knew there would be some history prior to her birth, but I wasn’t expecting it to take up the first half of the book. It wasn’t until page 99 that Joan finally makes an appearance, and even then it’s only sporadically; the story jumps right back to what various kings were up to.
The biggest strike against this book – and what ultimately led to its DNF status – interestingly enough wasn’t the lack of the title figure. Instead, it was the writing. The author clearly spent her time researching. Unfortunately, her writing wound up being very dry; she had gone into painstaking detail recording every movement and action of the characters.
That’s not to say the book wasn’t interesting. There were parts I tore through and I’m pleased to say I learned quite a bit!
Sadly, despite my high hopes, The Maid and the Queen just wasn’t for me.