Over the course of his career, New York Times best-selling novelist Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on a spectacular array of journeys. Midwives brought us to an isolated Vermont farmhouse on an icy winter's night and a home birth gone tragically wrong. The Double Bind perfectly conjured the Roaring 20s on Long Island - and a young social worker's descent into madness. And Skeletons at the Feast chronicled the last six months of World War Two in Poland and Germany with nail-biting authenticity. As The Washington Post Book World has noted, Bohjalian writes "the sorts of books people stay awake all night to finish."
In his 15th book, The Sandcastle Girls, he brings us on a very different kind of journey. This spellbinding tale travels between Aleppo, Syria, in 1915 and Bronxville, New York, in 2012 - a sweeping historical love story steeped in the author's Armenian heritage, making it his most personal novel to date.
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.
©2012 Chris Bohjalian (P)2012 Random House Audio
"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." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)
"Chris Bohjalian is at his very finest in this searing story of love and war. I was mesmerized from page one. Bravo!" (Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife)
;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." (Wally Lamb)
I couldn't say never read print version.
Elizabeth-She is so brave and bold.
They truly seemed to personify the chractors.
Yes, when Elizabeth discovers Armen's Wife dying in the hospital.
Did not like the ending.
I tried to read this, tried to like it, but it is too large a canvas for my taste. I am not interested in reading about wars, ethnic cleansing, the pointless suffering of innocents - and all the pain that goes along with that, if there is no character development. I can google all about any of those topics without buying a novel or an audiobook. Certainly, I am capable of enjoying a book with a background of war - example: "Sarah's Key" - but only if the individual characters engage. This book offered nothing for the reader in the way of character bonding.
I should have listened to my heart when I read the publisher's summary. When an author whose work I love decides to go in a "different direction", I, too, should go in a "different direction" and walk away.
I like Cassandra Campbell and I thought, "well, with Chris Bohjalian and Cassandra Campbell, what's not to like?". Wrong!!! Alison Fraser, the other narrator and I guess the granddaughter character but I didn't get that far, had an annoying voice that ran too fast, too cheery - you could hear her smiling all the time and for what reason? who knows? - and had a flat accent that was either just too precious and cute (why? is her Armenian heritage "cute"?) or spilling out words at breakneck speed and I just could not tolerate it.
I am interested in varied ethnicities, but does a writer have to make an entire book out of his own heritage? Really? Is Bohjalian not capable of thinking up anything else as a basis for a novel? Can't believe that, and I'll stick to his usual story lines, which are far from clichéd or overdone. Will the writer formerly known as Chris Bohjalian please come back!!!
I am annoyed to the hilt and sad that I have to wait another year or so for the "real" Bohjalian, the writer that I know and love reading, returns.
A moving story. Two narrators worked very well. Bohjalian captures the broader picture of the extermination or Armenians in the early 20th Century while building a very personal story line. The brutality of governments toward innocent civilians plays out again and again, century after century. The author captures the futility of well meaning foreigner volunteers trying to make a difference. They do, but in small ways, which of course count. I highly recommend the book for the story and an education about the period.
Tragic, beautiful, informative
The last book I listened to was Chris Bohjalian's "The Light in the Ruins". Like "The Sandcastle Girls", it was wonderful to listen to as well as shedding light on a period of history about which I suspect not many people are aware.
Cassandra Campbell: wonderful (5 stars)
Alison Fraser: Reading the part of a middle-aged woman but sounding like a giddy teenager (1 star)
I think Hatoun is sad, brave, faithful, strong and deeply intelligent.
This beautifully constructed book is filled with fascinating characters and a compelling storyline. I must admit I knew virtually nothing about the Armenian genocide, and am grateful that Chris Bohjalian has written this wonderful historical novel.
The modern-day characters seemed too stock and didn't add as much to the tale as the historical ones did. I also felt the author wrote in the voice of a woman to invoke more sympathy in the reader - it didn't work.
I like this genre but will probably stay away from this author.
The narration was good; it didn't intrude on the story at all which sometimes occurs.
I would cut most of the modern-day portions of the novel. The tale is really the Armenian genocide and I was disappointed when the story moved back to modern times. I didn't care about the spoiled girl who became an indulged middle class wife - she was unappealing and a tough narrator for me.
I never quite understood the purpose of the title. Seems like another inside joke the author was having on his readers.
Profoundly moving book about family history and the Armenian genocide of 1915. I can't quit thinking about it. The book taught me things I didn't know, took me places I haven't been, and just felt very personal. I have a new author to add to my list (he isn't new, I just haven't read his books). There is one image that the author uses over and over to express the anguish of a little girl's soul that deeply moved me, and -from a literary sense- it was just perfect in its devastating simplicity. Also liked his note at the end, and the author interview. It sealed the deal on him for me when he mentioned that he was highly anticipating Toni Morrison's book Home that was published after his interview. I love the true melting pot vastness of American writers.
I would recommend it to someone who likes history
The boldness of Elizabeth in dealing with the thiefs that took the supplies
This has not been one of my favorites.It does not move with a flow that makes you want to stop what you are doing to read it .I did finish it but with great difficulties.
I loved this story and would not hesitate to recommend it. The characters were interesting and well developed. I also learned some things that I didn't know about Armenian history which was an added bonus.
I am just getting to Know Bohjalian as an author. I am not overly enthused with this book or Midwives that I read previously but not willing to give up further books by him. As an Armenian my family is always on the lookout for stories of our heritage. The Armenian genocide has been kept silent, as noted in this story. So maybe one has to be Armenian to connect to this tale. My grandparents were already in this country when the events of this book occurred. But they left knowing it was coming. Other family members and certainly friends did not escape as they had.
The characters develop well. The premise of a "crash course" in nursing doesn't ring true (especially as I teach nursing) for today, but it may have in 1915. But that is not an essential part of the story. The essential part is the love story. Two people meet and have an instant attraction. They are separated, struggle to get back together, and have horrific experiences during that time. In modern times, the granddaughter struggles to find the truth. And what a truth she discovers. Altogether, it is a beautiful story.
Did I stay up all night to finish it? No. Is this book one of my absolute overall favorites? No. Is it a worthwhile purchase? Yes. The story is important to be told. The narration was well done. The mini-stories of the minor characters definitely add to it all.
I'm addicted to audiobooks, particularly erotica and romance.
The exotic location for the story was so phenomenal and interesting, I loved the multi-generational aspect as well.
It was great to have two narrators with distinct voices record this story, clever.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction about places you don't usually read about.
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