techeditor, October 19, 2014 (view all comments by techeditor)
If you know nothing about the Armenian genocide, which began around the beginning of World War I, before the United States entered the war, you'll know enough after reading THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS to want to know more.That's what good books do: while they entertain, they also teach, and they intrigue us enough to look up further information. And this is a really good book.
THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS is two stories: one, the story that Laura, a writer, tells in first person about her research for a book about her grandparents, survivors of the Armenian genocide, and, two, the story she writes along with the secret she uncovers.You may find that the parts of the book that tell of Laura's research are a relief after you read the other parts that describe the Armenian genocide. That is because, although THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS is fiction, the Armenian genocide is real horror. In the absence of actual pictures, Chris Bohjalian is sometimes graphic enough that pictures of the genocide will be in your head.
The story of Laura's grandparents, though, is not horrible. It's a love story in the midst of horror that some countries, the United States included, have yet to OFFICIALLY recognize as genocide. Why? Perhaps because some of the Armenians who the Turks accidentally left alive were not passive.
Carol Howe, February 13, 2013 (view all comments by Carol Howe)
With Bohjahlian's usual talent for making us feel so much apart of of the story we feel we ourselves are telling our own tale, we experience, the Armenian genocide of almost 100 years ago as if it were unfolding right before us-- or more precisely as if we were each the granddaughter uncovering the mysteries of her family.
Lynn Lesperance, September 18, 2012 (view all comments by Lynn Lesperance)
Author, Chris Bohjalian returns to his Armenian family roots as the inspiration for this expository tale of love, loss and genocide. Elizabeth Endicott is a young Bostonian woman who has traveled to Syria on a humanitarian mission with her father during the extermination of the Armenians. She expected to experience adventure and aid those in need but nothing could have prepared her for the atrocities she witnessed or the great love she found. As a chapter in history that has long been swept aside, it is eye-opening and heart-rending tale. As Bojhalian spares no detail in his description of war and its resulting horrors though, this is definitely not for the faint of heart - or the delicate of sensibilities.
Lynda Tysdal, August 5, 2012 (view all comments by Lynda Tysdal)
While I'm sure that Chris Bohjalian will be writing other novels (many more, I hope), I think "The Sandcastle Girls" will go down in history as his best. This book is a multi-generation epic filled with soul and depth, and Bohjalian has surely put his heart into it -- it shows.
From a novel, I usually expect just a few entertaining hours and a good story. Rarely does a book make me want to seek out non-fiction books to learn more about the subject, and setting and the time period like this one does. I had never heard of the Armenian genocide before I read this book, and in fact, it's referred to as "The slaughter you know next to nothing about". That said, this book is not just a downer about people dying, but also a love story and stories of people who beat the odds in ways you never imagined possible.
Definitely a must-read for Chris Bohjalian fans, and for people who've never read his work before, too!
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"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"Bohjalian's powerful newest (after The Night Strangers) depicts the Armenian genocide and one contemporary novelist's quest to uncover her heritage. In 1915, Bostonian Elizabeth Endicott arrives at a compound in Aleppo, Syria, to provide humanitarian aid to Armenian refugees. A fresh-faced nurse just out of college, Elizabeth has learned only rudimentary Armenian, but soon befriends Armen Petrosian, an engineer who lost his wife and daughter during the chaos of the deportations and mass murders. Though Armen departs for Egypt to fight with the British Army in WWI, their relationship blossoms into an epistolary romance. The atrocities of the genocide and the First World War continue, and Bohjalian spares no detail in his gritty descriptions. Nearly a century later, Laura Petrosian is living in the suburbs of New York City when a friend alerts her to a possible photo of her grandmother being used to advertise an exhibit about 'the Slaughter You Know Next to Nothing About.' As she explores her past, Laura discovers that what she once considered to be her grandparents' eccentricities — their living room was dubbed the 'Ottoman Annex' — speak to a rich and tragic history. Though the action occasionally feels far-off, Bohjalian's storytelling makes this a beautiful, frightening, and unforgettable read. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider. (July)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Kirkus (starred review),
"The granddaughter of an Armenian and a Bostonian investigates the Armenian genocide, discovering that her grandmother took a guilty secret to her grave....[An] unforgettable exposition of the still too-little-known facts of the Armenian genocide and its multigenerational consequences."
by Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife,
"Chris Bohjalian is at his very finest in this searing story of love and war. I was mesmerized from page one. Bravo!"
by Wally Lamb,
"In his latest novel, master storyteller Chris Bohjalian explores the ways in which our ancestral past informs our contemporary lives — in ways we understand and ways that remain mysteriously out of reach. The Sandcastle Girls is deft, layered, eye-opening, and riveting. I was deeply moved."
by Publishers Weekly,
"Bohjalian's powerful novel...depicts the Armenian genocide and one contemporary novelist's quest to uncover her heritage....His storytelling makes this a beautiful, frightening, and unforgettable read."
by Elizabeth Dickie, Booklist,
"A powerful and moving story based on real events seldom discussed. It will leave you reeling."
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