Providence Journal , RI
July 25 2004
A tale of love and war
Debut novel set in Paris in 1919 has lots of Rhode Island history as
BY ANN HOOD
Special to the Journal
THE LAST DAY OF THE WAR, by Judith Claire Mitchell. Pantheon. 366
Judith Claire Mitchell’s debut novel, The Last Day of the War, is a
sprawling, exciting love story set against the backdrop of Paris in
1919 and with interesting Rhode Island connections.
Eighteen-year-old Yael Weiss inadvertently takes a package from a
library shelf; its owner, a soldier named Dub Hagopian, must
negotiate with her for its return. In their brief meeting, he reveals
that he is a member of Erinyes, an organization with a secret plan to
revenge the Armenian genocide, and that the package contains guns.
Although he describes himself as “just a regular guy from Providence,
Rhode Island,” there’s nothing ordinary about Dub. Not only is he off
to Paris on a secret mission, but his hair, “in the front, is truly
half black and half gray.To the right of his part, his hair is black
as coal. To the left, a shock of pure shining silver.”
Yael is not ordinary, either. On the basis of these few moments, she
tampers with her birth certificate to make herself seven years older,
signs up to work in the YMCA soldiers’ canteens in Paris, changes her
name to Yale White, and crosses the Atlantic in search of Dub.
Improbably, they meet again almost immediately, fall in love and
embark on the secret mission together. Dub has a fiancée back home,
whom he does not love and who happens to be the sister of his best
friend and partner in crime.
Mitchell, a former longtime Rhode Island resident, uses her extensive
knowledge of our state’s history to build the inner and outer worlds
of Yale and Dub. Did you know that Providence was built on seven
hills, “like Rome”? Or that the Armenian community settled on Smith
Hill? “Why not Fruit Hill, with its flowering orchards and arbors?
Why not College Hill, with its ivy league university, or Mount
Pleasant, with its farms and fat grazing sheep?” A picture of a very
different Providence emerges through the eyes of Dub and his Armenian
Although some of these plot twists might feel familiar, Mitchell
weaves a tale filled with historical detail and facts about the 1915
Armenian massacres, and about life in 1919, complete with Y girls and
fashions like split skirts.
This combination of love and war, history and revenge, makes for a
thrilling read, one that lingers long after you finish it.
Ann Hood is a novelist and short-story writer in Providence. Her
latest collection, An Ornithologist’s Guide to Life, was reviewed
here last week.
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress