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The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Chris Bohjalian

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6969913,671 (3.9)39
Title:The Sandcastle Girls
Authors:Chris Bohjalian
Info:Simon & Schuster Ltd (2012), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:Armenia, Syria, Historical Fiction, ARC, Love Stories

Work details

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (2012)

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I thought the book was ok. Learned a lot but just was missing something.
  waeschle | Sep 2, 2014 |
Well written and interesting book about a genocide that not many people have heard about.
Lots of traveling back and forth from modern day to early 1900's when Armenians were being wiped out.
Graphic, real, not for our high schoolers but for other students of history may be an interesting addition. ( )
  FaithLibrarian | Jul 18, 2014 |
I have come to the conclusion that I will measure my like or dislike or lukewarm reaction to a book is how long it takes me to read it. I try and find time in the middle of the day, I wake up in the middle of the night. I just can't wait to find time to read! This is how it was with The Sandcastle girls. At times shocking and hard to read, violent and makes you want to look away but an intriguing and engaging story about a time in history I had no idea took place. The slaughter of a million and a half Armenian during WWI. Fascinating. ( )
  Alphawoman | May 19, 2014 |
Chris Bohjalian refers to the Armenian Genocide as “the slaughter you know next to nothing about.” This horrific event involved the mass murder of Armenians living in what is now Turkey. In my case Bohjalian's statement was true until I read his wonderful novel,The Sandcastle Girls. Here is a quote from Wikipedia about the Armenian Genocide:

It took place during and after World War 1 and was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert. The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million.

The Sandcastle Girlsbounces back and forth between the period when World War 1 was in its early stages and the present time. It is about Laura Petrosian, a novelist, who is shown an old photograph of a woman who suffered through the Genocide and who shared Laura's last name. This picture starts Laura's effort to learn more about the history of her ancestors. The portions of the book that take place during the early twentieth century tell us about Laura's grandmother, Elizabeth Endicott, as she arrives in Syria with her father. They are on a humanitarian mission to help the victims. The first day Elizabeth is in Syria she sees surviving women from one of the marches.

These women are completely naked, bare from their feet to the long drapes of matted black hair. And it is the hair, long and straight though filthy and impossibly tangled, that causes her to understand that these woman are white – at least they were once – and they are, in fact, not old at all, Many might be her age or even a little younger. All are beyond modesty, beyond caring. Their skin has been seared black by the sun or stained by the soil in which they have slept or, in some cases, by great yawning scabs and wounds that are open and festering and, even at this distance, malodorous.

The novel views the genocide from a short distance. We hear about the massacres of the Armenian men, but we don't see them. And Elizabeth is in Syria, so the women she sees are the survivors. Along the way many of the women were raped and some were slaughtered for fun, but we find out about those crimes through second hand stories or the recollections of characters such as Nevart, an Armenian woman who has taken on the care of Hatoun, a young, silent, orphan girl.

Bohjalian's book is not only about genocide. The story also covers other, smaller aspects of the characters' lives. Elizabeth falls in love with an Armenian she meets and he also falls for her, but he never loses the love he feels for his wife and his child although they have been taken from him. In the present time we feel Laura's need to find out more about her family and to use that knowledge to better understand her own life.

The Sandcastle Girlsis a novel about the importance of remembering our history, especially the bad parts. But it is also a book about hope and love and surviving.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | May 18, 2014 |
The Sandcastle Girls. Chris Bohjalian. 2012. The Armenian Genocide[7] (Armenian:), also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, traditionally by Armenians, as the Great Crime (Armenian: Մեծ Եղեռն Medz Yeghern)[8][9] was the Ottoman government's systematic extermination of its minority Armenian subjects from their historic homeland in the territory constituting the present-day Republic of Turkey. It took place during and after World War I and was implemented in two phases: the wholesale killing of the able-bodied male population through massacre and forced labor, and the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on death marches to the Syrian Desert.[10][11] The total number of people killed as a result has been estimated at between 1 and 1.5 million. Other indigenous and Christian ethnic groups such as the Assyrians, the Greeks and other minority groups were similarly targeted for extermination by the Ottoman government, and their treatment is considered by many historians to be part of the same genocidal policy. Wikipedia
I was vaguely aware of the Armenian Genocide, but did not know any details until I read this novel. Under the egis of The Friends of Armenia, and American woman goes to what is now Turkey to help the Armenians. She sends reports back to the Friends and letters to her friends and family describing the situation. She falls in love with an Armenian engineer who leaves to join the British army and is wounded at Gallipoli. Eventually they are married. Their granddaughter is the narrator. ( )
  judithrs | Mar 23, 2014 |
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:18:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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"--

(summary from another edition)

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