As the Hundred Years’ War ravages across Europe, English soldiers plunder the French countryside. On a hot summer day, a 12-year-old peasant girl with a hunger for God prays in her parents’ garden in Domremy, in Northern France, far away from Paris. The deep, masculine voice the girl hears sets “her blood on fire” when she is told she is the “Maid of France.”
"While the historic details and setting make the story come to life, it is Cutter’s insight into the thoughts and emotions of the young saint that make it so compelling."
Jehanne is a tomboy, the youngest of five children of Jacques and Isabelle d’Arc. Her older sister is a beauty, named for her favorite saint, Catherine. After Catherine is murdered, Jacques, “the king of the peasants,” makes her life miserable. He becomes enraged and moody, and takes his wrath out on the young girl, who spends time praying in church and in the family garden.
After Jehanne hears the voice she believes to be God’s, she is later visited by three saints: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. The voices tell what she is to do to save France. While her faith is unshakable, she is unsure how she will accomplish the mission she believes God has bestowed upon her.
The French city of Orleans is under siege, and Charles VII, the Dauphin and uncrowned king of France, is isolated and fearful for his life. As the war rages, Jehanne continues to hear the voices and believes she is the one who can save the French from the English invaders and restore the Dauphin to the French throne. But her mission is not easy. Despite taunts, brutal attacks, charges of being a witch, humiliating probes to determine the proof of her virginity, and vigorous questioning by the powerful, she perseveres to follow the will of God.
THE MAID is a moving story of the brave and pious virgin who left behind her family and home, and found the courage to follow the will of God and change the history of her country. With vivid details and lovely prose, Kimberly Cutter portrays the range of emotions --- faith, wonderment, self-doubt, sexual attraction, sacrifice, determination and courage --- of Jehanne, an uneducated peasant teenage girl who struggles with the destiny she must fulfill, regardless of personal costs.
At the end of the novel, in the Author’s Note, Cutter answers the question that readers of THE MAID will undoubtedly ask: How much of this is true? Her answer is “almost everything.” One significant difference is the circumstances of Jehanne’s sister, Catherine. While the historic details and setting make the story come to life, it is Cutter’s insight into the thoughts and emotions of the young saint that make it so compelling.
Reviewed by Donna Volkenannt on October 20, 2011