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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Slate.com and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: 'Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured'

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Patrik Henry Bass of Essence Magazine reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in The Book Reader.

More than six centuries after she came to prominence at just sixteen years old, Joan of Arc — the Maid of Orleans — still remains one of our most fascinating and enigmatic historical figures. Tens of thousands of words have been written about her from no less than William Shakespeare, Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw.

But theirs is far from the last word, as you will discover in "Joan of Arc: A Life Transfigured," a tour-de-force new biography by novelist and memoirist Kathryn Harrison. Like her subject, the author is no stranger to controversy, as readers of "The Kiss," her 1997 memoir, can attest. Also like her subject, Harrison has a sense of fearlessness that has connected her to a wide-ranging audience mesmerized by the power of her stories. And the story of Joan of Arc is as hypnotic as it gets.

Diving through a half millennium of rumors and fact — namely the transcripts from the 1431 trial in which Joan was infamously declared a heretic and sentenced to death by fire — Harrison peels back the layers of the legend and explored unexplained dimensions of Joan the girl-woman-warrior.

In Harrison’s provocative view, Joan is a multifaceted, flesh, blood, and bones leader who is both spiritually guided and politically astute. Harrison draws in the lines of Joan’s largely unexplored transformation from illiterate peasant girl guided by angels to a nearly unstoppable military force who played a major role in the fates of both England and France during the Hundred Years War.

It is that explanation of the evolution of Joan of Arc that lifts this tale above recent takes on St. Joan, who will no doubt, enthrall you in the pages of this book, and readers of what are sure to be many more stories about her for the rest of this century and beyond.

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