Book Review: The Book of Joan

Jan 5, 2018

This is KLCC. I’m Connie Bennett, Director of Eugene Public Library, with a book review of “The Book of Joan” by Lidia Yuknavitch.

I cannot decide if I love or hate this book.

Portland author Yuknavitch has taken a huge leap beyond her best-selling “The Small Backs of Children.” In “The Book of Joan” her story is post-apocalyptic, set in the universe of the near future, where her rage and vision explore post-war, post-gender, and perhaps even post-reality.

The few living characters, our narrator Christine, her rebellious erotic interest Trinculo, the evil, manipulative leader Jean de Man, are all scarcely human any longer. They live in a space capsule in the sky, sucking the last few resources from the damaged earth below.

With paper long gone and the conscribed living space hyper-regulated, the only form of protest remaining is the art of storytelling burned into one’s skin. Christine chooses – through this art of pain –to tell the story of a Joan of Arc like rebel child who may or may not have been destroyed by the evil capitalists. As always, Yuknavitch’s writing is a heady blend of grit and lyricism, anchored viscerally in the body.

While “The Book of Joan” simulating and vivid and provocative, it’s also unrelenting bleak. Although written prior to our current administration, I found it almost unbearable to read now, depending on the headlines of the day. And Yuknavitch is fiercely honest, allowing no easy escapism, no happy ending.

“The Book of Joan” is brilliant. From other reviews, I can tell that for some readers this proves to be cathartic. For me, it was pain.

This is KLCC. I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing “The Book of Joan” by Lidia Yuknavitch.