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The Last Day of the Warby Judith Claire Mitchell
Synopses & Reviews
This exciting debut novel is the love story of a Jewish girl and an Armenian-American soldier who together enter a maze of underground politics at the conclusion of the First World War.
Yael Weiss, an eighteen-year-old from St. Louis, reinvents herself as the twenty-five-year-old Methodist Yale White when she travels to Paris with the YMCA to work in a soldiers' canteen. Dub Hagopian — the doughboy she has a carried a torch for all the way across the Atlantic — is at once the patriotic child of immigrants from Rhode Island and, covertly, a member of Erinyes, an organization dedicated to avenging the Armenian massacres of 1915.
In her jaunty, engaging style, Mitchell captures the atmosphere of political carnival surrounding the Paris Peace Conference, where Yale, Dub, and their crowd gather, bursting with both the passionate ideals and the devil-may-care energy of youth. When they decamp to a château outside Paris, where Erinyes is hatching a radical plan and Armenian war orphans are billeted, Yale and Dub will face the largest decisions of their young lives.
A beautiful love story, The Last Day of the War is also a tragicomic farce about the workings of history and a testament to the moral fortitude of men and women swept up in the tide of their extraordinary times.
"All the heroes are liars in this smart, entertaining novel set at the close of World War I. Yael Weiss, an 18-year-old Jewish girl from St. Louis, falls in love at first sight with Dub Hagopian, an Armenian-American soldier. After a brief encounter at the public library, Yael changes her name, pretends she is Christian, assumes a phony age and joins up with the YMCA to follow him abroad without knowing who or where he is. In Europe, Yael meets fellow Y girl and troublemaker Brennan ('Now, shall we? It's their call to arms, this demure question'), who helps her spot Dub by chance at a Paris train station. Meanwhile, Dub has been serving as a translator for the hypocritical powers involved in the peace process, but he also secretly works for Erinyes, an underground organization fighting to avenge the Armenian genocide of 1915. With pluck and determination, Yael helps him track exiled Turkish war criminals, taking on the Armenian cause as her own. Like her heroine, Mitchell's debut is willfully charming, alternately impudent and intense ('Love. From the French oeuf. Oeuf meaning egg. As in egg handgrenaten'). Resisting the temptation to write an 'issue' book, Mitchell manages to capture a horrendous chapter in world history through exhaustive research while allowing a full spectrum of humor and pathos to flesh out the picture. Agent, Eric Simonoff. (June 15)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The blistering conclusion feels both satisfying and inevitable....It's a bravura performance, Alan Furst with a dash of Tintin, and Mitchell may have pulled off in her first try that greatest of oxymorons, the intelligent beach book." Mark Kamine, The New York Times Book Review
"Mitchell has meticulously researched her settings....But period details aren't enough to make the story soar....Disappointingly schematic." Kirkus Reviews
"[E]xceptional....This eloquent first novel encompasses the full spectrum of joy and torment that is the human condition." Booklist
"Mitchell's debut novel is so crammed with subplots and shallow, unlikable people whirling through a complex political landscape, that one is left breathless but ultimately unsatisfied." Library Journal
"An engaging tale of humor and pathos and young love amid the rich tapestry of post-war France." Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"When people say they love sinking into a great novel, The Last Day of the War is exactly the kind of book they crave. Judith Claire Mitchell's debut novel is an eloquent, sweeping, generous tale of war, love, history, deceit, and friendship, and it reads like the work of a seasoned novelist. Delicious, enveloping, and deeply affecting, The Last Day of the War is the kind of book that will be passed among readers for years to come." Thisbe Nissen, author of The Good People of New York and Osprey Island
"The Last Day of the War is an extraordinary achievement: a book simultaneously full of humor and horror, both enthralling and poignant, and spilling over with heart." Anthony Doerr, author of The Shell Collector
In this beautiful love story and tragicomic tale, Yael Weiss, an 18-year-old from St. Louis, reinvents herself as Yale White, a 25-year-old Methodist, when she travels to Paris with the YMCA to work in a soldiers' canteen.
About the Author
Judith Claire Mitchell is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a recipient of a James Michener/Copernicus Society of America Fellowship. She was a James C. McCreight Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and currently teaches creative writing at the University of Wisconsin. She lives in Madison.
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