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THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS by Chris Bohjalian
Follow Elizabeth, a proper Bostonian who is nursing at Syria’s Aleppo Hospital, and Armen, an Armenian engineer who fights with the British army in the Dardenelles, through 1915. The horror of the deportation of women and children into the Syrian desert after the massacre of the older boys and men in Armenia is explicit.
A historic thriller with color and mystery
Nevart, an adult woman, and the child, Hatoun, who have both somehow survived the desert, offer a clear picture of the “poor starving Armenians” my grandparents spoke of when encouraging me to clean my plate. You will learn a great deal about the “slaughter you know next to nothing about” through the eyes of those who survived it and in the context of an engrossing tale that covers death, sorrow, despair, cruelty, charity, kindness, hope and love with a dash of mystery.
The intertwining story of the Armenian family in 2010 Boston is peripheral, yet vital to the plot. Well written, with interesting and clearly drawn characters, this very believable story is true to history as well. Book groups will love Elizabeth, root for Nevart and Hatoun, despair with Armen and be surprised by the end.
Chris Bohjalian writes with rhythm, changing the tempo with the times of the events he is describing or the content of these events. All this while he describes authentic and well researched horrific events. The prose leaves you glued to the book and although one can form a theory or two about how the story will end, the powerful and emotionally charged ending is perhaps an example of as courageous and selfless act as I have become aware of. The details of the ethnic customs he describes are delicious and never to be forgotten. This is a historic thriller with tentacles going forward to our times.
I have previously learned about the Armenian holocaust and was anxious to read about it in a novel format. I am certain the the author did much research and based stories of the suffering of the characters in the book on that information. But I found the style of writing very off-putting and couldn't relate or feel very sympathetic to the the plight of the characters in this book. I didn't like the manner in which the two settings in time were told. I really wouldn't recommend this book unless someone to learn little about this episode of history.
The Sandcastle Girls is a love story between Elizabeth Endicott, a wealthy Bostonian, and a young Armenian engineer named Armen. This love story takes place during the Armenian genocide in 1915- 1916, but the entire storyline reverts backs and forth between the past and the present.
The Sandcastle Girls
I found the book a bit drab and didn’t enjoy the writing alternating between past and present tense. I honestly cannot say that I will be recommending The Sandcastle Girls to anyone soon as I won’t be. This novel was a huge disappointment to me considering the strength of and enjoyment in Bohjalian’s previous fourteen novels.
This book was incredibly difficult for me to read, and yet without books like these horrific events and the people who survived them would be forgotten. The Armenian genocide of 1915, is not something we learned in school and Bohjalian does a masterful job of presenting it in all its honesty and horror. Yet amongst the cruelty, there are instances of love and kindness and caring, even by those who were ordered to carry out these atrocities. Human people, with real human feelings, yet just as with other atrocities committed in the past and even now, there are not enough people to help or to even question. Things like this should not have happened and yet we trust that brilliant authors will continue to write heartbreaking stories to enlighten the reader. Well done and a fantastic book.