Joan of Arc - Mark Twain I am extremely glad I read this book, but I can give it no more than three stars. I will explain, in the hope that other prospective readers can accurately determine if this book will fit the bill for them.

Are you curious about the history of Joan of Arc? Are you interested in an accurate and detailed exposition? In such a case this book is for you. Although a book of historical fiction, it is accurate and detailed and well researched. Mark Twain considered this his best opus. I think I would agree. This book is the retelling of Joan’s experiences by Sieur Louis de Conte, aka Samuel Langhorne Clemens, her childhood playmate. This friend was there too, throughout all the events: battles, incarceration and court proceedings. What is fictional are his personal thoughts about Joan and his musings over the historical happenings. These thoughts are based on Twain’s twelve years of thorough research. He clearly admired Joan; this shines through. I am convinced I have been given a correct recount. You will learn about the Hundred Years’ War, about the political intrigues, religious and mystical beliefs prevalent of the times. To enjoy this book you must be interested and curious about history! It is a book about history. It is a book about the politics and machinations of the English and the French the plebeians and the Burgundians; it is a book about the controversy over religious beliefs. The setting is primarily northern France, and the time is the 1420s and 30s. It culminates with Joan’s famed burning at the stake in Rouen. When you close the covers of the book, you will understand in detail what has happened. I promise you that.

However the prose, the philosophical musings of Louis de Conte are repetitive and tedious. The language fits those times, not ours. The book was first published in 1896, and the language is of those times. It is also hard to empathize with the characters. The detailed events make the story long and yet still only at the very, very end was I emotionally moved, exasperated by what happened to her. Only at the very end was I mad and furious and frustrated and felt like punching someone. Mark Twain was not a Catholic, and I am not even religious, so it is hard for me to believe in prophesies and religious incarnations. I was up against a wall; I could not believe; I just listened. Aha, that prophesy came true too! I read of it and thought it must have been so, but I cannot understand because I am not a believer. I just put it down to history and say that again real history is stranger than fiction.

I would not recommend this book to those of you who want a good story where you “feel” for the protagonists, where the emotional connection is more important than the history. If you prefer a book of historical fiction that is more fictional than factual, then perhaps choose other books. I have yet to read The Maid or An Army of Angels: A Novel of Joan of Arc, but I will tackle them too. Someday….. I know the history now so I am a bit hesitant. I believe I will be annoyed if the fictional takes precedence over fact. I tend to want the truth…..

Let me add, the book is not devoid of humor. Although dated, some of the lines of the dialog will surely have you laughing.


I listened to the audio version narrated by Michael Anthony. He well captured Joan’s sentiments and vocal intonations, but his pronunciation of French phrases and cities and complete sentences was deplorable. Even the pronunciation of the city of Rouen was off. Please, if a book takes place in France, the French must be correct. Michael should have taken a course on French pronunciation!

I am very glad I read the book because I now understand the history of Joan of Arc. I prefer fact over fiction, but the passage was tedious. It is also fun to have read Twain’s own favorite book! But it is nice that it is over. Deed accomplished :0) !!!