Joan of Arc

Book cover: 'Joan of Arc'
Mark Twain
Ignatius Press
Sewn Softcover
Number of pages: 
452 pages
Grade / Age level: 

Saint Joan of Arc is one of the most astonishing saints of all time. Prayerful, as all saints must be, humble, generous, and patient, Joan served God by leading the armies of France to boot the English from their soil in 1431. Not a usual task for a girl in her late teens, saint or not. And afterwards, to make it perfectly clear that the English were engaged in an act of godless aggression, Joan was burned as a witch after a trial that was unjust, illegal and cruel in every detail.

So who is qualified to tell this story? Another saint? A theologian? A soldier? What about just a good American story-teller -- indeed the best -- but a man with hardly any faith at all?

Mark Twain is most famous for his Mississippi River stories, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. It is not well enough known that his own favorite of all his works was the life of St. Joan of Arc, told from the fictional perspective (but this is the only fiction in the book) of a childhood companion who accompanied her on her wars, and then smuggled himself into her trials as a court reporter and was the last to touch her hand before she died.

Mark Twain really loved Joan and he dedicated the entire fiber of his wonderful talent to telling her story. I see him in the year 1910, knocking at the Pearly Gates, and I see Peter's hesitation, for Twain was after all, something of an unbelieving old cynic. But over Peter's shoulder, I see a slight and mischievous lass tugging his sleeve and saying with a grin, "Let him in, now, let him in!" while a Voice thunders from the Throne, "Any friend of Joan's is a friend of Mine."

Read it yourself, silently or aloud to the family, and see if you don't agree.

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