Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc

  • Type: Ebooks
  • By: David Elliott
  • Age Category: Teens
  • Genre: Biography & Memoir
  • Recommended by: Lauren C.
  • ISBN/UPC: 9780358049159
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Poetry and history intertwined

The title of this book of poetry refers to the voices that guided Joan of Arc: St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret, three saints that are very important to the people of France.


I find the cover quite striking and gives a good hint of what is inside this treasure, with Joan’s fierce expression on her youthful face. It is believed that Joan was only about 19 years old when she was burned at the stake.


Voices tells Joan of Arc’s story in call-and-response verse form, from Joan’s perspective and from the perspectives of those around her, from Charles VII, her saints, to inanimate objects such as Joan’s armor, her sword, and the fire that burned her to death at stake. The story is interjected with quotes from her trial condemnation in 1431 and her later trial notification in 1456. A prologue includes information about Joan of Arc’s time, the pronunciation French words used in the poems, and ends with an author's note explaining why different poetry forms were selected.


Joan faces constant skepticism and humiliation: everything about her is questioned, from her virginity to her sanity to the divinity of her voices. Despite her young age, social rank as a poor illiterate shepherdess, and her gender as women were not seen as capable of leadership, against all odds, Joan leads the battered French army to victory against the English and sees Charles VII anointed as the King of France. 


This book is great for history buffs, Joan of Arc fans, Catholics as there is religious overtones to this entire story, and feminists because of Joan’s tenacious leadership. Poetry fans will enjoy the quality and variation of the poems offered. And the melancholy, because this is a tragic story of betrayal.


This is not a book for everyone. It is short in length, but dense in its content. I found myself frequently Googling as I was reading, looking up different facts about Joan’s life, the battles, and other authors who have written about Joan of Arc’s story. I would recommend Voices to those who appreciate quality over  accessibility: to the academically-inclined, adults or teens on the precocious side. (I enjoyed writing embarrassingly-angsty poetry as a teen to work through my feelings, and my young counterparts may feel inspired by the quality, variation, and tragic nature of Joan’s plight.)


This book gives you a sense of history and medieval life through every carefully chosen word and their strategic placement on the page, the poems sometimes forming the shapes of the objects they describe. The author chose a mix of modern and medieval poetry forms to tell Joan’s story. The author’s note explains that he sought poetry forms that Joan herself would have recognized from her time.


I learned a lot and was intellectually enriched by reading this book.