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Joan
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About the Author

Donald Spoto has written two dozen bestselling biographies of film and theater stars--among them Grace Kelly, Alfred Hitchcock, Tennessee Williams, Ingrid Bergman, and Marilyn Monroe. Born in Westchester County, near New York City, he now lives in Denmark.

Reviews

Skilled biographer Spoto, who has written books on many celebrities (e.g., director Alfred Hitchcock and actor Laurence Olivier), has turned more recently to religious subjects, namely, Jesus and Saint Francis of Assisi. A former university teacher of religion and humanities, Spoto draws in readers by illuminating his subjects so that they give witness for themselves. Joan of Arc (1411/12-31) is presented with updated scholarship in clear historical context, with a fresh contemporary take on the country teenager whose faith led to a turning point in the Hundred Years' War and the molding of France as a nation. Spoto effectively refutes some earlier cynical views of Joan with facts showing the reasonableness of and precedents for her actions. Liberal quotes, especially from her trial record, demonstrate how much falsification took place for political purpose. Joan was burned as a "heretic" on trumped-up charges, but the trial was nullified in 1451, and she was finally canonized in 1920. Recommended for academic and public libraries as a worthy contribution to a renewed understanding of a figure who still speaks to today's realities. Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., NY Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

According to biographer and theologian Spoto, Joan of Arc is a girl for the 21st century. She asserted and fought for the ideal that nations shouldn't invade and occupy others for the sake of empire building, a message to contemplate in today's political landscape. But it's unfair to read our contemporary concerns back into her 15th-century story, says Spoto. In this engaging and at times gripping biography, he examines Joan's life and particularly her faith in the face of a church threatened by her visions. Spoto details what is known or surmised about Joan's early life and military career, but the book's most fascinating aspect is the suspenseful day-by-day account of her year-long trial and conviction for heresy. Here we see the Maid's (as she called herself) sense of God's instructions for her life, and her efforts to obey God above all else, including earthly church authority. Spoto helps us understand her threat to political and ecclesiastical figures. The only person to have been condemned for heresy and later sainted, Joan of Arc continues to capture the popular imagination and is, Spoto argues, "the sign that God is free to act as He wills to act, not as we presume He ought to act." (Feb. 20) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

"[An] engaging, and at times gripping, biography."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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