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The Maid, By Kimberly Cutter

Saint Joan: the confusing teenage years

Kimberly Cutter's debut novel is about Joan of Arc, called Jehanne here, from her upbringing in a quiet French village to her heading of a French army and her eventual betrayal and execution by the opposing English forces.

It's always been a powerful tale – the young girl who dressed as a boy in order to fight, and claimed she heard the voice of God telling her to lead her countrymen – but in Cutter's hands, much of that power gives way to a tale about a confused teenager. It's easy to see what she's trying to do; that by stressing Joan's vulnerability she makes her real to us. But in modernising Joan (her reaction when she "yanks" an arrowhead out of her neck is trite), she diminishes her.