The Last Weapon by Theodora Wilson Wilson

The Last Weapon by Theodora Wilson Wilson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I came to The Last Weapon through one of Wilson’s children’s books Five of Them and could not quite believe how the author of that could also write this, an anti-war polemic that was banned during the first World War. It seemed so strange and almost unbelievable: Five of Them was such a sugary sweet book. To go from that to writing a banned book fascinated me. Thanks to my local library pointing me towards the hathitrust repositories, I was able to finally find a copy of it.

The Last Weapon is the sort of book that you can’t rate, so I must ask you to disregard that. It hovers somewhere between fable and polemic, anti-war sermon and viciously angry fairytale. Every inch of it sings with pain and heartache and raw, raw fury at the world. It is a difficult read at points, disturbing at others, shocking at many, and heartbreaking throughout. It feels like the work of a completely different author and one who, I suspect, wrote this through a very particular prism of pain. Perhaps personal, perhaps political, I don’t know. But this book comes from hurt.

Would I recommend it? I’m not sure. If I’m honest, I don’t know if it’s the sort of book that one recommends. If one can’t really rate it and one’s still trying to figure out how they feel about it, one can’t really pick it up and go ‘hey, this is the perfect read for you’. I suspect it will be of interest to people looking at anti-war literature and sentiment at the start of the early twentieth century, and I suspect it will also be of interest to people who want to find out more about female authors at this point. And I think I fall into the latter category for I’m always intrigued to find out what female authors were writing and talking about in a literary culture that was very particular about what was expected about them (let’s call a spade a spade eh? sexism, misogyny, the patriarchy, etc. etc.).

The Last Weapon is full of religious imagery and quotations and some (a lot) of the more precise theological connections got past me. I am, however, a bit familiar with the representation of popular religion at this time, and this book felt very, very particular to this period. We have big gatherings, people preaching to the congregation, a vigorous centralising of the church in all that goes on, and a look towards preachers and minsters to function as the voice of all that is good and right.

So what happens? Mankind is being tested, and the ‘Sons of Fear’ and ‘the Child’ have gone down to earth to try and persuade them to make a choice: whether to use the Last Weapon. The Last Weapon, we eventually learn, may be ‘hellite’ – an atom bomb like device which will destroy everybody and everything in its path, or love. I won’t tell you what happens but I will tell you that Wilson does not hold back. She is furious and raw and rather endlessly raging into the dark, dark night. It is scared and it is sad and it is searing.

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