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The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls (2012)

by Chris Bohjalian

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1,0461188,057 (3.9)50
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In the present day, Laura narrates in the first person as she digs up her grandparents' history for a novel she is working on. In 1915, Laura's grandmother, Elizabeth Endicott, is an American volunteer in Aleppo who falls in love with an Armenian engineer, Armen Petrosian, whose wife and child were killed.

It is Elizabeth and Armen's stories (and other characters from their time and place: Karine and Nezimi, German engineers Eric and Helmut, Armenian refugees Nevart and Hatoun, American consul Ryan Martin) that have the most gravity; Laura is only putting the pieces together, through Elizabeth's and Armen's correspondence and Elizabeth's diaries, which have been preserved.

The Sandcastle Girls sheds light on the Armenian genocide ("the slaughter you've never heard of") in a way that exposes the atrocities that took place during it, and the roulette wheel of world war that spares some lives and takes others.


Mostly she has been either hungry or thirsty or scared, and what is the point of talking or crying if all your pleas go unanswered? (Hatoun, 78)

When it seems you have nothing at all left to live for, death is not especially frightening. (Armen, 97)

Time, I thought, gives us hope; it shouldn't. Time is indifferent. (Laura, 217)

...[he] takes the letters the way a starving man grasps for a piece of bread. (Armen, 241)

He knows well how quickly it can all fall apart, how suddenly everything can be lost. (Armen, 247) ( )
  JennyArch | Jul 7, 2017 |
I admit to a long-standing fondness for Chris Bohjalian. He writes wonderful books about real characters at significant moments in their lives. The book is as much about the people and seeing who they are and why they are that way as it is about "the story". ( )
  shadowdancer | Jun 22, 2017 |
Flips from the stories told in a family circle to the time frame of the war in Armenia. What the character endures, the emotions that are drawn out ransack the reader as they follow every word to the story's close. Loved this novel! ( )
  ShannonY | Apr 5, 2017 |
A story centered on a genocide that so few of us know. Mr. Bohjalian does a wonderful job of weaving in facts with his storytelling (although I will be honest, it started out super slow and confusing to me - which is why it only got 4 stars). The characters are so life like and the story so intermixed with historical accuracy that it is hard to believe it is not a true story. ( )
  sunnydrk | Mar 13, 2017 |
Laura undertakes a journey of discovery when she sees a photo of her grandmother for a museum exhibit. It leads her to the Armenian genocide and her grandparents story there. ( )
  gbelik | Mar 11, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385534795, Hardcover)

The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian's Armenian heritage.
When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing,  and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language.  The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide.  There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter.  When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters, and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.
Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York.  Although her grandparents' ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed "The Ottoman Annex," Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura's grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family's history that reveals love, loss - and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:36 -0400)

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"Parallel stories of a woman who falls in love with an Armenian soldier during the Armenian Genocide and a modern-day New Yorker prompted to rediscover her Armenian past"--

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Average: (3.9)
1 7
1.5 1
2 15
2.5 4
3 59
3.5 18
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4.5 25
5 80


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