Summary and book reviews of The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Book of Joan

by Lidia Yuknavitch

The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
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  • Published:
    Apr 2017, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

The bestselling author of The Small Backs of Children offers a vision of our near-extinction and a heroine - a reimagined Joan of Arc - poised to save a world ravaged by war, violence, and greed, and forever change history, in this provocative new novel.

In the near future, world wars have transformed the earth into a battleground. Fleeing the unending violence and the planet's now-radioactive surface, humans have regrouped to a mysterious platform known as CIEL, hovering over their erstwhile home. The changed world has turned evolution on its head: the surviving humans have become sexless, hairless, pale-white creatures floating in isolation, inscribing stories upon their skin.

Out of the ranks of the endless wars rises Jean de Men, a charismatic and bloodthirsty cult leader who turns CIEL into a quasi-corporate police state. A group of rebels unite to dismantle his iron rule—galvanized by the heroic song of Joan, a child-warrior who possesses a mysterious force that lives within her and communes with the earth. When de Men and his armies turn Joan into a martyr, the consequences are astonishing. And no one - not the rebels, Jean de Men, or even Joan herself - can foresee the way her story and unique gift will forge the destiny of an entire world for generations.

A riveting tale of destruction and love found in the direst of places - even at the extreme end of post-human experience - Lidia Yuknavitch's The Book of Joan raises questions about what it means to be human, the fluidity of sex and gender, and the role of art as a means for survival.

Chapter Seven

When I began her story, when I began grafting her alive on the surface of my skin, I missed the smells of the body—missed them violently. I missed the smell of sweat. Blood. Cum. Even shit. Our bodies have lost all sensory detail. I should be stinking and matted and chapped, stuck in this idiotic cell. My teeth should feel covered in a wrong spit film.

But our bodies barely respond to anything. Not even my own piss has a smell. And besides, fewer and fewer of us retain any forms of physical longing. I suspect what has taken the place of drives and sensory pleasure is a kind of streamlined consciousness that does not require thinking or feeling. It was too much for us, in the end. Now all that remains is a tiny band of like-minded resistance bodies. Anti bodies, next to the bodies of most on CIEL, who are fast becoming pure representations of themselves. Simulacral animated figurines.

I wonder sometimes if that's why grafting was born. It restores us to ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Yuknavitch's novel draws its inspiration not only from literary and historical figures, but also from feminist and queer theory, politics, environmental studies, and philosophy. It touches on numerous issues of gender, environmental degradation, inequality, injustice, and the role of humans in ensuring their own survival – or destruction. Obviously reading The Book of Joan is not a light or easy endeavor; the braided narratives and the occasionally grotesque subject matter can make for ponderous, if crucial, reading. But for some readers, Yuknavitch's novel may provide, if not comfort, then at least a form of catharsis, an opportunity to envision and absorb the worst the future might hold and galvanize themselves to prevent such a future from coming to pass.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (647 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The novel is most memorable from a thematic standpoint, particularly its insistence that "the body is a real place. A territory as vast as Earth."

Booklist

The heart-stopping climax will surprise readers of this dystopian tale that ponders the meanings of gender, sex, love, and life.

Kirkus Reviews

A harrowing and timely entry into the canon of speculative fiction.

Library Journal

Starred Review. This ambitious novel encompasses a wide canvas to spin a captivating commentary on the hubris of humanity. An interesting blend of posthuman literary body politics and paranormal ecological transmutation; highly recommended.

Author Blurb Cheryl Strayed, New York Times bestselling author of Wild
Riveting, ravishing, and crazy deep, The Book of Joan is as ferociously intelligent as it is heart-wrenchingly humane, as generous as it is relentless, as irresistible as it is important. In other words, it's classic Lidia Yuknavitch: genius.

Author Blurb Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author of Bad Feminist and An Untamed State
Lidia Yuknavitch is a writer who, with each ever more triumphant book, creates a new language with which she writes the audacious stories only she can tell. The Book of Joan is a raucous celebration, a searing condemnation, and fiercely imaginative retelling of Joan of Arc's transcendent life.

Author Blurb Amber Tamblyn, author of Dark Sparkler
Reading The Book of Joan is a meditation on art and sex and war. My brain is full-bloomed. Get ready, it's glorious.

Author Blurb Chelsea Cain, New York Times bestselling author of Let Me Go, Kill You Twice and The Night Season
Dazzling. A post-apocalyptic literary tour de force, The Book of Joan begs for buzz. There is so much here that is transgressive and badass and nervy and transformational. Here is a Katniss Everdeen for grown-ups.

Author Blurb Vanessa Veselka, author of Zazen
Lidia Yuknavitch's The Book of Joan inscribes whatever blank canvasses it finds-space, skin, alabaster hallways, holding cells called Liberty Rooms-to tell the story of the vital and violent Joan. As with Dora, the price for entry into Yuknavitch's world is corporeal. Her narrators demand we shed all fear of the body and step into a new literary nakedness. The Book of Joan is graffiti in white ink. It is where experimentalism meets the dirty earth and gets saved.

Author Blurb Karen Karbo, New York Times bestselling author of Julia Child Rules and How Georgia Became O'Keeffe
Lidia Yuknavitch's new book has left me throttled and close to speechless. Speculative doesn't begin to describe this sexy, imaginative and thoroughly original work. Atwood, LeGuin and Lessing come to mind, but Yuknavitch's sensibility, which includes her casual ability to completely blow your mind, is all her own.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Joan of Arc in Many Forms

In Yuknavitch's near-future vision, a character inspired by Joan of Arc seems poised to be the savior of an all-but-doomed Earth. Yuknavitch is far from the first writer and artist to be inspired by the fifteenth-century French heroine. Images of Joan of Arc have appeared in opera, film, literature, art, and even video games and comics over the past six centuries. The following are just a few examples of Joan's influence on culture - both traditional and popular - over the years:

Dramatic Art
George Bernard Shaw's Joan of ArcIn 1801, German playwright Friedrich Schiller imagined Joan as a romantic heroine in his play Die Jungfrau von Orleans. Schiller's play inspired more than eighty other Joan-related plays in the nineteenth century, as well as operas ...

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