The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc

September’s book pick was The Maid: A Novel of Joan of Arc by Kimberly Cutter. Book pick was brought by Jill.

Book Synopsis:

“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

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 d’Arc, 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. 

Book Discussion:

I think today seems like a good day for a recap!  I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats awaiting a recap from The Maid discussion in October so here it goes.
A few of us met early at Seaboard to give Shobha a chance to visit two of the many establishments in her new town of Matthews.  Shobha was enjoying a brew (Seaboard is a brewery and wine bar/shop) when the girls from Waxhaw arrived (just a touch late).  The weather was beautiful though I had been concerned about the temperature and had multiple conversations with the staff/owner at Sante, our restaurant destination, to determine the best dining area for us.  The owner finally convinced me that dining outdoors would be lovely for the evening and I chose the back courtyard.  He was right, it was perfect weather for dining al fresco and we had the courtyard to ourselves which is always a plus.  Since I’d had so much interaction with the Sante folks already I didn’t want to be late for the reservation so Susan and I manned up, chugged our wine and headed on down the street to Sante.  
Once everyone arrived, we ordered some appetizers as usual; luckily talking Shobha out of the escargot.  Wine all around and on to The Maid.  Generally everyone knew of Joan of Arc but not much about her or why she happens to be the patron saint of France. I found the story very interesting and we had a fairly in depth discussion about whether she was delusional, or was actually sent from God on her journey.  A mixed bag of feedback there that generally followed the level of religious faith each person has.  The more faithful among us do believe God has chosen ones to do his bidding (and I truly hope if that’s the case Susan gets picked next because I’ll know then she’s not crazy); while those of us with a more minimal amount of religious faith leaned towards the crazier side of Joan’s story.  Having said that, there is no doubt that she led troops to battle, she survived a fall from high up in a castle with no injuries, turned the tide of the 100 years war and in the end was burned at the stake.  As for the words we used to describe her (per Jenn’s inquiry) Brave, Crazy, Faithful…there are others but my memory…  The book was overall thumbs up with a couple thumbs down thrown in.  On to picks, hopefully you all know by now we are reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins.   

The Language of Flowers: A Novel

August’s book pick was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. Brought by Suhanti.

Book Synopsis:

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings. Now eighteen and emancipated from the system with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger has her questioning what’s been missing in her life. And when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

Book Discussion:

Venue was Suhanthi’s house screen porch.  Food was from Inchin Bamboo Garden. Jill, Amy and Sondra came on time. Amy brought flowers she picked from her garden – lilies (majestic) and dahlias (dignity/ elegance).  Thank you Amy. I placed a food order to be delivered for the very first time and it was a fiasco.  I ordered and was supposed to get a confirmation email, but never did.  So called the restaurant and the never received the order.  Then I place a takeout order for just the main course as the food would not be ready for 75 minutes.  

As children and their attitude towards household chores was being discussed, I whipped a couple of appetizers – peanut salad which was a big hit and pakoras. Waiting to hear how Jill’s version of the salad with cashews turn out.  As we talk about the book while waiting for Shoba to come to start the discussion per her request, I send Kamesh to pick the takeout.  While he is on his way, I receive a text that the food has been delivered on my front porch.  Then I had to argue with the restaurant about canctthe takeout, I was ready to start drinking.  Phew.  Never again am I ordering food to be delivered.  Now that I have acknowledged my challenged capability (rather the lack of) to order food let’s move on.

Jill as usual pulled out a list of discussion questions and ensured that we got through them all.  She had to bang on the wine glass to bring the culprits (Shobha and me)to get on track with the discussion.  This was one of those books which entailed a lot of discussion.  Final verdict was a thumbs up (3 thumbs up, one down and one sideways).  In ending, to answer the question about what flowers would you give to someone important in your life, Jill said she would give all the Dine and Opiners freesias as they signified lifelong friendship. Luna decided to interrupt the discussion to get some love and then eventually settled down to serve as footrest.

Shoba brought Kheer and I served Moong dal Halwa For dessert which were combined by some.  Jill was shushed into handing the book picks when she started providing context around her selection.  She handed the 3 and did not have to use the two titles she had as back up.  The winner was “the maid: a novel of Joan of Arc” by Kimberly Cutter.  If you haven’t seen the group text, it is available on Hoopla.

Everyone made their way home around 11 after making plans to get Henna done.  Was a fun evening.