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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

The Last Day of the War: A Novel

1. Describe the structure of The Last Day of the War . Why has Mitchell divided her book into nine parts, three set in the US and six in Paris? How does she incorporate flashbacks into the chronological narrative to give the history of the characters? Discuss the various names of the chapters; what part do they play in the structure? What is the effect of the structure --- the way the story is told --- on you as a reader?

2. How has her Jewish and Midwestern background influenced Yale and her decisions? Is she at odds with her Jewish identity? Why does Yale feel compelled to lie about her age, religion, and name? How is she able to convince others of her masquerade?

3. The Last Day of the War is in many ways a coming-of-age story. How does Yale change over the course of one year from the day she steals a suit on her 18th birthday to the Paris Peace Conference, ending WWI? What has she learned and how has she matured in this year?

4. What meaning does Paris have for both Yale and Dub? How are they liberated and/or confined in Paris? What does each of them do in Paris that they would not have been able to do in the States?

5. At the end of the novel, Shusan declares: "He [Dub] could be any American boy." Do you agree? In what way are Yale and Dub outsiders? And how are they both essentially and ultimately American?

6. What attracts Yale and Dub to each other? Is it their otherness? Why does Yale romanticize Dub, and travel to Paris in the hope of finding him again? What does Dub feel for Yale? What does he feel for his girlfriend back home? Why does he feel indebted to Ramela? What does he owe Yale, if anything? Describe Yale and Dub's relationship, and discuss what draws them to each other.

7. How has Dub's Armenian immigrant experience in Providence influenced him? Can he ever separate himself from this identity of the Armenian-American immigrant and from the Armenian collective memory? How is it both liberating and a burden for Dub?

8. Describe Yale's friendship with Mary Brennan White. What do they share with and learn from each other? Does the presence of Dub and his Armenian friends strengthen or weaken their friendship? How have they both discovered themselves through the friendship?

9. What is the friendship between Dub and Raffi based on? How does it mirror or contrast with the friendship between Yale and Brennan?

10. Discuss the purpose and role of Aram Kazarian and his wife in the novel. What do they represent to Dub and his friends? What about their chateau? Describe it, and its importance in the novel not only as a safe haven from the chaotic world, but as an emotional hold on the characters. How does the outside world eventually sneak in?

11. Why does Amo Winston, the 40-year-old YMCA matron, pick on Yale and Brennan? What do they represent for her? How do they feel about her? How and why does their relationship change over the course of the novel?

12. Discuss the theme of revenge in the novel. Who wants revenge and why? Can anyone be innocent in war? What does Kerim Bay represent for Dub and Raffi? Discuss the plan to assassinate him, and what its outcome reveals about Dub and Raffi, and their relationship.

13. What role do lying and deception play in this novel?

14. Discuss the importance of names in the novel --- Yael Weiss/Yale White; Dub Hagopian; Mary Brennan White; Shushan; and others. What do their names reveal about the various characters?

15. The Last Day of the War is a historical novel. What did you learn about WWI and the early 20th century by reading this novel? How much did you know about the Armenian massacres before reading the book?

16. What is the significance of the title, The Last Day of the War?

The Last Day of the War: A Novel
by Judith Claire Mitchell

  • Publication Date: June 14, 2005
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor
  • ISBN-10: 038572201X
  • ISBN-13: 9780385722018