Book Review: The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

This book is the fifteenth book by Chris Bohjalian and it
was published in 2012.  It’s our book club selection for July.
Book club meets tonight–my thoughts follow . . .

This is a book about the Turkish/Armenian war which took
place in 1915.  Some have called it a genocide.  While World
War I is enveloping Europe, the world seems to be ignoring
the horrors of what is happening in Syria.

Elizabeth Endicott is a recent Mount Holyoke graduate who
travels to Syria with her father and some physicians under the
name of Friends of Armenia, funded by wealthy Armenian
families in America.

She is immediately involved in the unbelievable, crushing sights
of starving women and children being herded through the
streets of Aleppo by Turkish soldiers.  She had expected to be
able to aid the banished Armenians, but the hundreds of
people herded through on their way to “camps” show her
very quickly that although their group might do some good,
it will make little impact on a horrifying situation.

This book is not a comfortable read, obviously, but it does
draw the reader in through the author’s careful and
thoughtful portrayals of the main characters.

The narrator of the story assumes the character of the
granddaughter of the main characters, Elizabeth and her
Armenian lover, Armen.  We travel back and forth in time
to unravel the history of her family’s involvement in the

I’ll leave a space here to tell you about the book club’s
reaction.   . . . . . .And so we met–only a few of us because
of a very stormy night and people away on vacation.  Everyone
read the book and agreed not really a book you could say you
“enjoyed” because of subject matter.

I think we all felt a lack of knowledge in the Turk/Armenian
episode—probably not emphasized in World History classes.
Some found the writing a little hard to follow because the
author jumps from one character’s narration to another
frequently—two people found that at least.  Also, two
wondered about the aptness of the title.

But the book provided a good discussion vehicle–discussion
about history, genealogy, and the horrors of war.

The Sandcastle Girls Bohjalian 003








Next month–for August–we’ll be reading The Magic Mountain
by Thomas Mann.  Winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
My copy is a translation by John E. Woods–recommended.
Shall I save you a seat for the third Tuesday in August?



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4 Responses to Book Review: The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

  1. FictionFan says:

    Sounds like a tough read. It’s sad to think that the same places are still going through wars, and still creating thousands upon thousands of refugees…

    • booksandbuttons says:

      I agree. Does no one learn from history? One book club
      member suggested things might be different if women were
      in charge of policy. I wonder, too. I hope some positive
      steps are being taken–by baby steps–to enable women in all

  2. FictionFan says:

    Sadly the women who rise to power usually seem to do it by aping men. It was a ‘joke’ when Mrs Thatcher was in power that she was the best man in the Cabinet.

    • booksandbuttons says:

      Well, I don’t necessarily mean women rising to power,
      but maybe being allowed to drive a car? to vote?
      baby steps. Thank you for worrying with me.

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