The Sandcastle Girls- by Chris Bohjalian - 286 pages
Advanced Reader Copy
Book Blurb: When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke College, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The First World War is spreading across Europe, and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to 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 to join the British Army in Egypt, 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.Flash forward to the present, 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.
My Review: 4 stars
This book was a slow start for me with an excellent finish. It took me awhile to get used to the voice/narrator changes within chapters. I think this author does his best work with historical fiction and because this novel delves into to his own heritage, he does the subject matter justice. I knew little about “the slaughter that you know next to nothing about” although admittedly what I did know, I learned on the Kardashians reality TV show when Lamar Odom headed to Turkey. Hey, at least I knew something! Beyond the plot and subplots that kept this book moving, it was the brutal, frightening and disturbing scenes that brought the horrors of this historical genocide to life. There were some very difficult passages to read yet the author kept the underlying love story ribboning throughout the novel which helped ease the monstrosities of this systematic destruction of the Armenians.
I very much wish the book had a different title. The reference to the title was so insignificant to me and without creating a “spoiler”, the vision was a little canned. I highly recommend this book to historical fiction readers.
Quotes I liked:
- “The first boy I ever kissed - seriously kissed, that is, not dry, awkward pecks on the cheek or the lips - was Turkish. He knew I was Armenian. I knew he was Turkish. Hormones mattered far more than history.”
- “How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing? -- You kill them in the middle of nowhere."
- “Still he worries that something has happened because anxiety is now as much a part of his muscle memory as climbing stairs or using a knife and a fork.”
- “But history does matter. There is a line between the Armenians and the Jews and the Cambodians and the Serbs and the Rwandans. There are obviously more, but really, how much genocide can one sentence handle?”
- “ He’s not really sure he will even need the cane today. Yesterday it was mostly the weight of his loneliness that it buttressed.”
Tags: Historical Fiction, 2012, WW1
Labels: 2012, Historical Fiction, WW1