BOOK REVIEW: The Sandcastle Girls

sandcastle_girlsReview of: The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria, she is there with one purpose–to use her newly acquired nursing degrees to aid the relief of the Armenian refugees trickling through Syria in the first breakers of the Great War.  She is hardly prepared for the drastic conditions, but with true American spirit, she makes the best of her situation and develops a fierce tenacity that shocks her father.  When she meets Armen, an engineer who has lost his wife and child in the war, an unexpected romance springs up.  Against all odds, their romance flourishes, carried through letters across the dangerous lines of war.  In the present day, Laura Petrosian is a novelist who has never given much thought to the past of her grandparents until the day a picture of her grandmother surfaces in a collection of pictures from the Syrian refugee camp. Drawn into the drama of war, Laura sets out to discover the truth of their past–the love, the loss, and the dark secret at the heart of it all.

The Sandcastle Girls was definitely written with a lot of skill.  The storylines flow between past and present with ease, and even though I’m always partial to the historical perspective in these dual-time-period books, I didn’t become overly frustrated with the present-day narration.

Like all good historical fiction, The Sandcastle Girls brings to light a little known aspect of history–the persecution of Armenians in present-day Turkey during the First World War.  Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of the Armenian Genocide. Basically, in 1915, the Ottoman Empire began to kill off the Armenian people within it’s borders.  They killed the men, sent the women and children on death marches into the Syrian desert, and of course confiscated anything of worth that the Armenians might have had while they were at it.  It is a truly awful, yet surprisingly little known facet of history.

The Sandcastle Girls incorporated that history into a riveting, literary adventure.  It was the first book I’ve read by Chris Bohjalian, but it is his fifteenth written.  I’ll definitely be looking for some of his other works in the near future.

If you’ve enjoyed books in the vein of ‘Letters from Skye’, or the poetic literary style of ‘The Forgotten Garden’ you should read ‘The Sandcastle Girls’, or if you enjoy historical fiction in general and get a kick out of learning actual history by reading fictional books, you should give ‘The Sandcastle Girls’ a read.

I really liked it: 4 out of 5 stars