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Nancy Goldstone has written a compelling history of Joan of Arc and the final days of the Hundred Years War. It suffers slightly from the "Secret" billing: the major secret is that Yolande of Aragon, Charles VII's mother-in-law, was a supporter of Joan (which was not so secret) and may have cleared the way for Joan's first appearance at Charles's court (which is a reasonable inference, made more convincing here by the "coincidental" juxposition of certain letters, meetings and decisions). Secret or not, the book DOES provide a detailed look at the political infighting that characterized the French court, and sets each of the participants, including Joan, in a credible historical context. It provides one of the clearest explanations I've read of the tangled Anglo-French dynastic issues.
Goldstone tries to maintain a balanced perspective. In one instance, I think she goes too far in explaining away Yolande's behavior: in describing the absence of any French support for Joan after her capture, she says, the trial was such a breach of protocol that no one could have expected it (lame); and she notes that Yolande had her hands full with other problems, including the fact that her own son Rene had been captured by Burgundy (understandable but still ungrateful).
Sandra Burr does an excellent job narrating the book. I did find, in the copy I downloaded, one technical glitch. This is likely to be fixed (such issues often are in Audible's downloads), but I'll mention it just in case it isn't. Part of Chapter 17, from the second audio file, has been dropped into the first file, between chapters 4 and 5. The same content is repeated in the right place, so it's a question of being momentarily confused rather than having to mentally unscramble the story.
I will definitely be listening to other books by Goldstone. Among other things, she pulls off the difficult balancing act of demystifying Joan without in any way devaluing her achievement.
14 of 16 people found this review helpful
I cannot say that I found much of interest in this book. The fist half of the text rambles on about Yolande of Aragon. While Yolande has a tale to tell, it is certainly no more and clearly much less intriguing than any other member of the house of Aragon, As to the secret of Joan, there is less to tell. My doctoral work was in French Medieval Literature. I did a great bit with the transcripts of Joan's trial. Goldstone's book references the trial with accuracy but reveals nothing about any "secret."
The true "secrets" for which Goldstone does not address are such things as Joan's ability to ride and control a war horse: no small feat, and Joan's military tactics. Was Joan trained and primed by those who needed her to lead their cause? These are but two of the many "secrets" but the author does not address them.
I cannot say that I found this text either interesting or informative.
3 of 5 people found this review helpful