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.
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 really liked the fact that it was such an eye opener about the attrocities committed against the non-Turkish citizens living in Turkey.
When we discovered the supposed "dead" wife was still alive.
There were too many. Many of the interesting scenes couldn't be called favorites because
they were too gruesome, but still very moving and certainly attention holding.
Epic Story of Genocide in Turkey
I love Historical fiction and this book covers a horrific little known story. Breaking the book between current time and historical time makes the book easier to read.
The story line of the Historical events of 1915
No, but I thought her performance was excellent.
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.
The history lesson was great. I love books that, after I finish, have me researching more about the topic. With The Sandcastle Girls I walked away feeling like I had learned something new.
There were parts where I was a little lost as to who was who, exactly. There were some characters who had potential, but were never fully developed and others that were developed more than they needed to be.
I purchased this book since I enjoyed "Midwives" so much, but I don't think this one had the same punch. I felt like nothing ever "new" really happened. The story was told, but the fictional characters weren't overly interesting. The ending was anti-climatic.
Retired CFO, Army wife, Mom of five, Grandma of six, two sons who served in combat, love to read books that reflect my values and faith, love mysteries, historical, military stories, and books that don't waste my time . . . if it doesn't have an ending that was worth the wait, I'm not a happy camper.
That it is both a love story and a history of an area of the world that I knew very little about.
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, because it also tells a story of another time, the love between two people of different nationalities, and the oppression and pain of war.
Yes, it opened my eyes to a whole world that I never knew of . . .a time and place that I was unaware of . . . and it helped me to put things into perspective regarding that area of the world today . . .
One of the best audio books I have listened to. I think that men and women both would like this book.
Wow! I winced through a part of this story which describes a brutal killing on a train but it just doesn't compare to the overall story of the Armenian Genocide, largely unknown to me. This historical fiction novel is well done and enlightens the reader about the Ottoman Empire's murder of more than 1.5 million Armenians by forcing them to march into the Syrian desert without food and water.
The story is told in two time settings:
A love story unfolds between Elizabeth an American who goes to Syria to provide medical attention to the Armenians. She meets Armen, an Armenian engineer who has lost his wife and child.
The current day Laura, a novelist who comes upon her grandparents letters and diaries in an Armenian History Museum in MA and begins to research the story of her family.
This is a fascinating story about a genocide that I had never heard of - the Armenians by the Turks during World War I - as seen through the eyes of 2 generations of women in a single family. The first is a young woman from Boston who accompanies her father to Aleppo, Syria, to deliver food and medical aid to the victims of the Armenian genocide and the second is her granddaughter who is just discovering the story as she reaches middle age. There are two narrators for each woman's voice which really adds to the sense of intimacy to how the two women react. As is typical with good historical fiction you learn a lot about history while engrossed in the lives of the characters.
I had never heard of the Armenian genocide and it made me wonder about other genocides that I have never heard of.
Viewing this story from two different perspectives, that of the one living through the experience and that of the grandchild learning something new about her grandparents really fleshes out the impact of the horror of the genocide.
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