cover image Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc

Dove and Sword: A Novel of Joan of Arc

Nancy Garden. Farrar Straus Giroux, $17 (237pp) ISBN 978-0-374-34476-4

Venturing far from the contemporary Brooklyn setting of her Annie on My Mind, Garden takes up the story of Joan of Arc-and proves that she is as compassionate and imaginative with the vagaries of 15th-century French history as with the problems of 20th-century gay teens. Wisely, she centers her novel on a fictional character, Gabrielle, who comes from the same village as ""Jeannette"" and who follows her into battle, serving as a medic. Accordingly Garden need not convince the reader that saints have spoken with Jeannette and sanctioned her mission; it suffices that Gabrielle believes this. Instead of emphasizing religion, the author brings into high relief the dramas of daily life in rural homes, in combat, in sheltered convents. Gabrielle, who serves as narrator, is essentially a modern creature-she chafes at the inferior status of women, wants a career as a healer, abhors war (Jeannette nicknames her ""friend dove"")-and her views act as a bridge between the reader and the unfamiliar mores of a remote past. While Garden fills her narrative with the ringing voices of soldiers proclaiming the glory of their campaigns, she employs Gabrielle's more cautious tones to send an anti-war message. Her strategically plotted novel achieves the highest goals of historical fiction-it vivifies the past, robustly and respectfully, then uses its example to steer the audience toward a more courageous future. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)