Synopses & Reviews
Behind the girl rides her army of ten thousand warriors, all of them united by the same strange and feverish joy as they crash across the winter fields, through the white land and toward the shadowed stillness of the pines. She is seventeen, a peasant, unschooled, simple as a thumb. But on this morning, she is simply Gods arrow, shot across the winterland, brilliant and savage and divine. Unstoppable.
It is the fifteenth century, and the tumultuous Hundred Years War rages on. France is under siege, English soldiers tear through the countryside destroying all who cross their paths, and Charles VII, the uncrowned king, has neither the strength nor the will to rally his army. And in the quiet of her parents garden in Domrémy, a peasant girl sees a spangle of light and hears a powerful voice speak her name. Jehanne.
The story of Jehanne dArc, the visionary and saint who believed she had been chosen by God, who led an army and saved her country, has captivated our imaginations for centuries. But the story of Jehanne—the girl—whose sister was murdered by the English, who sought an escape from a violent father and a forced marriage, who taught herself to ride and to fight, and who somehow found the courage and tenacity to persuade first one, then two, then thousands to follow her, is at once thrilling, unexpected, and heartbreaking. Rich with unspoken love and battlefield valor, The Maid is a novel about the power and uncertainty of faith, and the exhilarating and devastating consequences of fame.
"A complex and sophisticated book, brilliantly written, beautifully illustrated." Booklist
"[A] genuine epic of America: an inspired homage to one of our greatest writers that brilliantly reinterprets, and in many ways rivals, his masterpiece." Kirkus Reviews
"An intense treat, powerfully written, Ahab's Wife is one of the best contemporary novels I have read in years." Louise Erdrich
"Beautifully written. Lyrical...alluring and wise." Los Angeles Times
sheds new light on a legend from the past and ultimately succeeds in illuminating the present."— The Washington Post
"Was Joan of Arc a messenger from God, a lunatic, or just a petulant kid? She's a little of each in this beautifully written novel, which follows Jehanne from her girlhood to the Hundred Years' War . . . to her death at 19, burned at the stake in the Rouen marketplace. Cutter presents Jehanne as part mystic, but also part mascot used by France to rally support from the peasants. In The Maid'
s best scenes, she couldn't be more human." — Entertainment Weekly
"Was she a saint or a witch? A visionary or a madwoman? Or an extraordinary peasant girl who, at God's bidding, led an army, saved France and paid the price by burning alive? . . .Kimberly Cutter's portrait of 'Jehanne' as a strange, gritty teenage tomboy and true believer is compelling." -- USA Today
"Cutter brings Jehanne d'Arc to life, complete with the visions, voices, courage, and superpowers she used to persuade thousands to follow her into battle to save her beloved France from the English army. Cutter's Joan is conflicted [and] the battles are gory. . ." -- Daily Candy
"Joan of Arc, the teenage peasant girl who commanded a French army, was burned at the stake, and eventually declared a saint, exists in our collective imagination as more myth than human being. . . Cutter strips away the romanticism in favor of a more complex portrayal that raises some provocative questions." -- O Magazine "No one has ever written a fictional treatment of Joan of Arc that encompasses 'The Maid of Orleans' the way Kimberly Cutter has. From Jehanne's poverty-stricken upbringing, to her peculiar relationship with France's Dauphin, to her bloodthirsty battle actions and finally, to her sad last days, this book brings a misunderstood figure to blazing life." -- Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Cutter evokes the novel's medieval world with striking details. Wounds are dressed in olive oil and cotton, and stork is eaten for dinner. King Charles appears 'in his white nightdress, hair trailing down his back in thin, oiled tentacles,' and a starving, naked woman stuffs dirt in her mouth 'greedily, as if it were a butter tart.'" -- The New York Times Book Review
"A fiery portrait of one of history's most exalted heroines. Cutter's lavish imagery is outstanding and her dynamic characters are truly absorbing. The Maid is a triumphant re-imagining of a courageous, faithful and remarkably resilient woman." — Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana and A World on Fire
"Cutter brings fresh insight to the story of Joan of Arc in this dynamic page-turner...The exhilaration of her many triumphs on the battlefield, the bloody combat, the deadly jealousies and political machinations that begin her undoing, and her tragic end are portrayed with vivid imagination and brio. In this stunning debut, Cutter pays vibrant homage to this legendary woman." — Publishers Weekly, starred review "The Maid is a brilliant portrait of Joan of Arc that peels away the layers of myth to reveal the inner world of an astonishing human being. Cutter has given new life to one of the most incredible women of all time." — Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology
From the opening line "Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last" you will know that you are in the hands of a master storyteller and in the company of a fascinating woman hero. Inspired by a brief passage in Moby-Dick
, Sena Jeter Naslund has created an enthralling and compellingly readable saga, spanning a rich, eventful, and dramatic life. At once a family drama, a romantic adventure, and a portrait of a real and loving marriage, Ahab's Wife
gives new perspective on the American experience.
This P.S. edition features an extra 16 pages of insights into the book, including author interviews, recommended reading, and more.
"Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last." This is destined to be remembered as one of the most-recognized first sentences in literature along with "Call me Ishmael." Sena Jeter Naslund has created an entirely new universe with a transcendent heroine at its center who will be every bit as memorable as Captain Ahab.
Ahab's Wife is a novel on a grand scale that can legitimately be called a masterpiece: beautifully written, filled with humanity and wisdom, rich in historical detail, authentic and evocative. Melville's spirit informs every page of her tour de force. Una Spenser's marriage to Captain Ahab is certainly a crucial element in the narrative of Ahab's Wife, but the story covers vastly more territory. After a spellbinding opening scene, the tale flashes back to Una's childhood in Kentucky; her idyllic adolescence with her aunt and uncle's family at a lighthouse near New Bedford; her adventures disguised as a cabin boy on a whaling ship; her first marriage to a fellow survivor who descends into violent madness; courtship and marriage to Ahab; life as mother and a rich captain's wife in Nantucket; involvement with Frederick Douglass; and a man who is in Nantucket researching his novel about his adventures on her ex-husband's ship.
Ahab's Wife is a breathtaking, magnificent, and uplifting story of one woman's spiritual journey, informed by the spirit of the greatest American novel, but taking it beyond tragedy to redemptive triumph.
A gorgeously written, gritty, sensual novel that captures a new Joan of Arc - the achingly young peasant woman long hidden behind the layers of history and legend
About the Author
Sena Jeter Naslund is Distinguished Teaching Professor and Writer in Residence at the University of Louisville and program director of the Spalding University brief-residency MFA in Writing. A winner of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writers, she is the author of eight previous works of fiction, which have been translated into eight languages and published in Australia and the United Kingdom, where her book Ahab's Wife was a finalist for the Orange Prize. Those who've read her novel Abundance, A Novel of Marie Antoinette will recognize the character of Élisabeth Vigée-Le Brun from that book. Naslund lives in Louisville, Kentucky.