Book Review: Saint Joan of Arc

by V. Sackville-West

England's Penguin Books 1955.

Review by Lisa Marie Garcia

Miss Sackville-West lost my interest almost immediately with her claims that Saint Joan was a feminist who refused to wear a skirt. She had me rolling my eyes with her later assumption that since soldiers didn't feel inclined to molest Saint Joan, she must have been ugly. She goes on to state that much is known, via detailed accounts, about Saint Joan's life. Then she makes frequent and heavy use of such terms as "perhaps," "maybe," "let us suppose" and "I believe."

I have to wax sarcastic and say a child of elementary school age could read the transcripts of Joan's trial and understand that she was neither a feminist who refused to wear a skirt nor so ugly she turned men off. By Joan's own words we understand that her men's garb and armor were basically a chastity belt. Miss Sackville-West has no problem with misquoting Saint Joan. The saint does put her foot down on being asked to wear a dress in a man's prison. She grants that she will gladly wear a dress if allowed to hear Mass and stay in a proper place for women under the watchful eye of nuns. That being the case, I have a very difficult time finding any interest in what Miss Sackville-West might believe.

There is very little fact in the book. It wastes quite a bit of time on supposition. It also makes heavy use of French dialog which isn't translated for us. Generally speaking, she pats herself on the back for removing all "romance and legend" from her story and paints a rather crude portrait of Saint Joan. The book is out of print. I just happened by one at the thrift store.

By: Lisa Marie Garcia