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The Last War: A Novel Hardcover – May 26, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her third work of fiction, Pushcart Prize–winner Menéndez (In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd) pits an ambivalent American expatriate photojournalist, nicknamed Flash, against everything she thought was real. While her war-correspondent husband, nicknamed Wonderboy, waits for her in Iraq, Flash wanders the streets of Istanbul, gazes from her apartment balcony and drinks bitter Turkish wine rather than deal with a marriage crippled by personal ambition and possible betrayal: early on, an anonymous letter arrives informing Flash of Wonderboy's infidelities abroad. From there, one scene blends into the next as Flash reconsiders her once-dependable husband; his occasional phone calls from Iraq puncture Flash's dream state with spikes of resentment, guilt, adoration and desperation. An old friend, beautiful Alexandra, plays the role of ideal expat; Flash has always œtried, without success, to emulate Alexandra's œworldly looseness and œcalm assurance. Focusing on modes of suppression, the internal politics of memory and the tension between guilt and independence, Menéndez produces a story that slips by quickly, but leaves behind the resonant idea that it's human nature to œfear return and œloathe the familiar, rather than the other way around. (June)
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From Booklist

Pushcart Prize winner Menendez shifts her focus from the Cuban-American experience to life in Istanbul, Afghanistan, and Iraq in a novel narrated by a freelance photographer known as “Flash.” Her husband, Brando, a journalist reporting from the war in Baghdad, waits for her to join him there; Flash, however, chooses to remain in Istanbul, their base for several years. The reasons for this consume most of Menendez’s impressionistic and introspective tale, as Flash grapples with a vague feeling that “something essential” is giving way in their marriage—a feeling compounded by an anonymous letter alluding to Brando’s ongoing affair. Alternating between Flash’s memories of their past together and her peripatetic present, Menendez dissects the reasons for her narrator’s dissatisfaction with her marriage, her vocation as a chronicler of disaster, and her sense of homelessness. Flash is weary of their constant migration from one war zone to the next, while Brando seems slavishly devoted to war for his very existence. Menendez offers astute and perceptive commentary on both the hidden and obvious effects of war and its aftermath. --Deborah Donovan

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (May 26, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061724769
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061724763
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,298,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

The story line reads a little like a soap opera.
Rebecca Cox
I'm the type of reader who has a hard time with books when I really don't want to spend time with the main character.
Certainly war is one theme and all the destruction it causes to societies, as well as personal losses.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By lisatheratgirl VINE VOICE on October 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I loved this book, but first I want to say that readers who prefer a story with a definite plot, especially a chronological plot, may not care for the style of this book. It's not a novel of the wars going on in the Middle East, although that is the setting. If that is what you are looking for, there are other books, fiction and nonfiction, you will like better. The main character is a photojournalist, not a writer. This distinction is made several times and is important. Her husband is a journalist in Iraq, and friends and colleagues are journalists that have been in India, Afghanistan, Iraq, and currently Istanbul since 9/11. These people are Americans and Europeans.

In photography (one of my hobbies, not my profession like the narrator's) it's really themes that are important and this is why I think they take precedence over plot in this book. Certainly war is one theme and all the destruction it causes to societies, as well as personal losses. Another is loneliness. Flash, the narrator, is still in Istanbul, while her husband is in harm's way in Baghdad. A third is the experience of being a foreigner in another part of the world, especially during a war, and how the population of the other country sees one. How much you miss by not knowing the language (Turkish is so vastly different from English that an American would really be up against a wall). Foreigners can be made fools of or walk into danger without knowing it. The foreigners' world (if any of you read details of the Green Zone) is seen as artificial by the native population, with good reason. The fact that the book is seen through the eyes of a photographer also helps create the setting. Istanbul (and I've only seen pictures) is supposed to be a really beautiful city, half in Europe and half in Asia.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Cox on August 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I received a copy of this book from Goodreads (thank you so much) and was very interested since I had been an expat myself and lived in several countries overseas. The Last War states it is "a breathtaking novel of love, war and betrayal". Flash is a photographer and is married to Wonderboy, a journalist. They both cover war stories, sometimes together and sometimes apart. At the beginning of the book, Flash is in Istanbul and Brando (wonderboy) is in Iraq. Flash is waiting for a visa to join him but really has little intention of joining him. Most of the book is Flash's thoughts, depression, street wanderings and indulgences. She receives a letter that tells her Brando has been unfaithful which feeds her depression and inward focus.
There is some minor coverage of the wars, bombings, but it is very minor. There is some description of the towns, cities and countries they are traveling in, but again that is mostly minor. The story line reads a little like a soap opera. I felt like Flash is very self indulgent and being able to spend many months in a nice apartment in Istanbul without having to work or actually do anything seems unrealistic.
With all my travels and time spent as an expat, none of the story line rang true to me. Granted, I was not a journalist, but I did live and work in many foreign countries. There are parts of the story line that seem to be going somewhere, and then it fizzles and never really grabs me. I see glimpses of greatness but mostly just find average writing. Maybe for someone that has never traveled the experience would be different. The Last War could have benefited from some great editing and additional details of the environment.
This book would be a good read for someone that is interested in the subjects of depression, inner reflection and love lost. It doesn't, in my opinion, live up to its hype of "a breathtaking novel of love, war and betrayal".
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 5, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Ana Menendez's novel is her third and most personal.It tells the story of a woman photojournalist married to a war correspondent, and a time in their life when things were falling apart. A letter and a chance at betrayal. A good novel but not outstanding, until you discover that the author, Ana Menendez, was married to a war correspondent, Dexter Filkins, and a letter and a real betrayal occurred. Aha, now this novel becomes much more interesting.

'Flash' the nickname of writer who is telling this story, was a photojournalist in war torn countries. She followed her husband, Brando, or Wonderboy, as she called him to the dangerous places. They worked as a team. Now, he was in Afghanistan and she was in Istanbul, awaiting her papers to join her husband. But, she knows she won't be joining him. Things have changed, some deterioration in their relationship has occurred, and she is sitting waiting for something to happen. They communicate by phone and email. On a day much like any other, Flash receives a letter from someone who tells her that her husband is having an affair, and she deserves to know. This letter changes her entire life and how she looks at and how she feels for her husband. She does not, for some unknown reason, question Brando or tell him about this letter. She tries to investigate herself, but gets nowhere. She seems to be caught in a web of not knowing and not wanting to know. An anonymous letter but it serves as a vessel for all her questions. She stays in Istanbul, stays alone, and visits the city and looks for all of the interesting places and things that this city has to offer. But, always in the back of her mind is this letter. The letter has destroyed her life as she knows it.
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