Joan of Arc: By Herself and Her Witnesses by Régine Pernoud is a fantastic biography on Joan of Arc, Jeanne d'Arc. This biography sets itself apart by using recorded testimony of both Joan and those who knew her to create a living portrait of Joan.
Appropriately, the book starts at the beginning of Joan's life. With testimony from Joan's own mouth during the trial and that of those who knew her as a child, the image of an obedient and devout girl comes to life. A child who went to confession daily, if she were permitted, and kept to her chores diligently.
Despite the disapproval from her parents, Joan set out on the road to meet The Dauphin, Charles, who she was determined to place on the throne of France by driving out the English. Her defeat of the English at Orleans staggered many in France, and struck fear into the invading English.
Details of the battles that followed are provided by her comrades in arms, including Jean de Dunois, the Bastard of Orleans. Joan won many major battles in the Hundred Years War, but she also lost many. Those she lost, she claims to have done without the support of her "voices", Saint Catherine, Saint Margaret, Saint Michael, and Saint Gabriel.
While it's true that Joan recanted to save her life at one point, the author suggests that she knew more about the situation than she would say aloud. Being held under state custody while undergoing a "church" trial appears to have tipped her off to the illegitimacy of the process. Even though Joan knew how to sign her name, she only signed an "X" on her recant. Her many demands to see the Pope, which by Church law were supposed to be honored, were dismissed.
This biography does not end with Joan's death like so many do. Details about the "rehabilitation" 25 years after are shared in this book, where Joan was finally once again accepted as a member of the Church. Many of the statements throughout the book are taken from these documents.
Joan's influence in the Hundred Years War cannot be emphasized enough. Without her intervention to take back Orleans and many other strategic locations in France, the outcome most certainly would have been different.
More recommended reading on Joan of Arc:
Joan of Arc: Maid Myth, and History by Timothy Wilson Smith.
Joan of Arc: A Military Leader - Kelly DeVries
Recommended movies on Joan of Arc:
The Passion of Joan of Arc