Monday 4 June 2012

156. Sparrow: The True Story of Joan of Arc by Michael Morpurgo

Sparrow: The True Story of Joan of Arc by Michael Morpurgo
Published June 2012 Harper Collins

From the publisher:

"There was only one creature on this earth who really knew Joan. He was a sparrow, just an ordinary sparrow...He was her best friend on this earth, maybe her only friend, too."
A young girl faces an impossible task - to save her beloved France from tyrants. To free her country, Joan will lose everyone she has ever loved. But she listens to her heart and believes in her calling.

It wasn't until I read the Author's note and copyright info at the back of the book that I found out that this book is a reprint.  It was originally published in 1998 with the title Joan of Arc.  I have tried to avoid reading re-issued titles, and only focusing on books published this year, or released in Australia this year, but this one slipped through my net.  My net must have very large holes.  This is also my first ebook read of the year, and I didn't find it any more or less enjoyable than reading a real book.   If I had the actual hard copy of the book in may hand, I may have read the authors note earlier, as with historical fiction I am interested in why the authors have chosen particular stories to write about, but it wouldn't have made any difference to my enjoyment.

This story begins in modern day France in the town of Orleans where a teenage girl, Eloise Hardy has grown up with the image of Joan of Arc in her house, and because of this has felt a real connection with her.  The announcement of her school being chosen to select one girl to be Joan of Arc and ride through the streets on May 8th the anniversary of the relief of Orleans is surely a sign that Eloise should be the one chosen.  Although her essay was the best, and most detailed, due to the fact that Eloise was not born in Orleans, the role of Joan is given to another.  Devastated by the news, Eloise skips school and goes to the riverbank with it's view of Tourelles, the fort that Joan captured hundreds of years before, and in the warm sunshine, she falls asleep.

It's from this point in the book, that the story of Joan of Arc begins.  It begins with the time she first heard the voices through to the day she was put to death.  In this story Joan has a constant companion, that of a white sparrow, Belami.  It is Belami who Joan talks to of all her fears, doubts, struggles and victories.  This sparrow is of course fictional, but Morpurgo has used it so that we can see a side of Joan not often witnessed.

I won't go into the details of the story, but I will say that Morpurgo has once again presented us with a 'big' story that is simply written.  I feel that this is what he does so well and so beautifully. This may be a book written for children, but it is not written in a patronising way.  He hasn't rewritten history so that all of the unpleasantness is removed and we are not left with a sweet Disney version of events.  Even if you know the story of Joan of Arc, this book is still worth a read.

Who will like this book: Girls and Boys age 11+
Read it if you like: Historical fiction

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