The Last Day of the War

Written by Judith Claire Mitchell
Review by Claire Morris

Did World War I end on November 11, 1918, or did it continue to play out years after that well-known date? The Last Day of the War explores the idea that the fallout from war continues long after the trenches empty and the guns are laid down. It does so by shedding light on a lesser known section of WWI history: the massacres of Armenians living in Turkey and the deportation of the remaining Armenian population in 1915-16.

Dub Hagopian is an Armenian-American who becomes involved in Erinyes, an organization bent on revenge. Yale White is a restless eighteen-year-old from St. Louis who changes her name and lies about her age and her Jewish heritage so she can volunteer in the YMCA canteens in Paris. Through their love story and intrigues, this novel shows what life must have been like in France during the uncertain days of early 1919. Both Dub and Yale are complex characters, not entirely likeable but very, very human. Yale seems unable to tell the truth about anything; she fabricates the person she would like to be and feels no compunction about doing so. Dub wrestles with loyalty to his maltreated people, and a desire to live in peace and worry about nothing more earth-shattering than baseball. Secondary characters such as Brennan, Yale’s adopted sister, and Raffi, Dub’s compatriot, are equally complex, which adds to the sense that these are real people with real problems living in a real world, not a literary one.

The Last Day of the War is not heartwarming fiction, but it is thought-provoking and unique. I think readers will be clamouring for this author to publish a second novel.