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The Sandcastle Girls

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  39,236 ratings  ·  5,104 reviews
The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian's Armenian heritage.

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help de
Hardcover, 299 pages
Published July 17th 2012 by Doubleday
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Lisa I just heard an interview by the author. The story is not true (the characters), but the novel is based on historical events and extensively researche…moreI just heard an interview by the author. The story is not true (the characters), but the novel is based on historical events and extensively researched. The author also traveled to Armenia for the novel (his ancestry).(less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  39,236 ratings  ·  5,104 reviews

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Nov 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"How do a million and a half people die with nobody knowing? … You kill them in the middle of nowhere."

In 1915, amid the turmoil of the First World War, a million and half civilians including women and children perished during the Armenian genocide. Many were executed and others died a slow, painful death as they were forced to march from their villages in the Ottoman Empire through the harsh and unforgiving Syrian desert. Either I slept through history class or this horrific event was simply n
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I started this book a few days ago and I have to tell you that I am only able to read it in small bites. The book is so good and so very disturbing that I can feel myself becoming an emotional wreck! It has taken me about 10 days to get through this book. Not because it wasn't good, but because it is just THAT good. I can actually say for the first time in a very long time; I savored every single word of this book.

The subject of the book is the Armenian Genocide
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
I can honestly say that this was the ONE book I was DYING to read all summer. I vacillated whether or not to purchase it just so I could get my hands on the thing as soon as it was released. I refrained and waited on the library copy. It was $20 saved.

What I liked:

• Setting/historical significance: I knew nothing of the Armenian genocide. How did I not know that between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered at the hands of the Turks during WWI? High School and college history: Fail. Than
I found this to be a moving story and great means to bring to life through fiction many key elements of the Armenian Genocide (“The Slaughter We Know Next to Nothing About”). Because of Bohjalian’s Armenian ancestry, the work is obviously a labor of love for him. He walks the tricky line between the need to draw as many readers as possible with an engaging and hopeful human story and the goal of imparting the truth of the brutal events of civilian starvation, rape, and slaughter. He achieves thi ...more
Jul 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: war, recommended
The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian is a powerful and unforgettable historical novel depicting the Armenian Genocide. It is an epic story of love and war that will leave you pondering on the facts long after you have finished this novel.

This Novel is set in two timeframes. The past 1915 to 1916 and the present.

The book takes us back to a time when the First World War and the Armenian genocide of 1915-16 . Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Syria along with her father, they have volunteered on beh
Connie G
It's been one hundred years since the start of the Armenian genocide in the spring of 1915. Chris Bohjalian's Armenian heritage inspired him to write this book. The story has two threads--the first set in Syria in 1915, and the other in the northeastern United States in 2012.

Elizabeth Endicott comes to Aleppo, Syria as a volunteer for the Friends of Armenia during World War I. She sees women and children coming to Aleppo from death marches across the desert. The men had already been killed by th
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I am not one to read historical fiction very often. I saw this on a First Reads giveaway and was lucky enough to win a copy. After reading it, I've determined that I need more historical fiction in my life!

I found it difficult to read this at first, because it is filled with so many interesting, as well as shocking details. I have no prior knowledge of the Armenian genocide that took place, and I found myself deeply invested in reading and understanding each detail of the story. Because of the h
Nov 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
I love the way Bohjalian writes! He is one of my favorite authors. This story is a historical fiction account of the Armenian genocide in 1915. 1.5 million Armenians were massacred by the Turkey Government in the desert of Syria(they were massacred because of their Christian faith). It's a historical novel weaving the lives of a woman in 1915 and her grandaughter in 2012. The Grandaughter learns of her grandparents lives by accident, by a picture in the Globe to which one of her classmates draws ...more
Jul 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, middle-east
I knew of the Armenian genocide but knew very little about it. So when GR friend Joy D's review of The Sandcastle Girls popped up on my GR feed, I decided to remedy the situation. First, I did some background research and then plunged into this work of historical fiction.
Chris Bohjalian, like his fictional narrator Laura Petrosian, is a novelist and the grandchild of a survivor of the Armenian genocide who has decided to write about the genocide mid- career. Laura is in her forties and is m
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: botn
100 years ago (April 24, 1915) over a million Armenians were forced out into the desert and brutally murdered in a plot to rid the world of their race. An event that isn't taught in history class and has almost disappeared into history as a result. I had no idea that this event had happened in the midst of everything else going on in the world during this time.

Chris Bohjalian takes an interesting approach to this story line. Bouncing between present day journalist in Bronxville, NY to 1915 Alep
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Books can do different things. They can entertain you, educate you, provide some escapism etc. Sandcastle girls did so many things for me. Firstly it made me weep, it gave me nightmares, it made me really feel for all the victims and survivors of the Armenian genocide. None of the other books I’ve read about the holocaust/Rwandan genocide has affected me this deeply. This may be because some of these books were documentaries, which makes them a bit more clinical, and some of them were biographie ...more
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was ok
ETA: No, I didn’t really like this book. I just gave it three stars because I am glad Bohjalian wrote a book about the genocide. The narration was off, I didn’t like the two threads, particularly the modern one, and parts are written for the movies, i.e .way too theatrical, and yes even fluffy! I have changed the rating from three to two stars.

On completion:

I will give this three stars. Part of the problem is that there are two threads, a historical one and a modern one. I generally do not like
Jun 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
This is another historical fiction novel that I know little about the history.
Armenian Genocide 1915. It is just amazing to me how much pain and suffering we can inflict on other human beings. One and a half million people were killed. Why?

In this novel the chapters begin with a current time line with Laura researching
The secrets of her grandparents. We go back to the story of Elizabeth Endicott
who goes to Aleppo in 1915 with her father as a volunteer. Little by little Elizabeth’s story is told
Connie Cox
WOW. This book may make Mr. Bohjalian move to the top of my favorite author list. Where he gets ideas for his stories I don't know, but he is a master at weaving historical events into a beautiful story.

I am ashamed that I knew nothing of the Armenian Genocide.....was never taught nor even mentioned in history classes that I can recall. And that is a tragedy in itself. These atrocities should be taught and never forgotten. Thank you Chris Bohjalian for bringing this history to light.

This story
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Aug 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
What a heartbreaking, but moving story. I’m always appalled at how incomplete (and one-sided) “history” seems to be – or at least the history that is taught in schools. Historical fiction books like this, I believe, would do wonders for generating interest in history! In The Sandcastle Girls, Chris Bohjalian has illuminated one of the world’s dirtiest secrets: the Armenian genocide.

Told in multiple points of views – by American volunteers, Germans, Turks, Armenian refugees, present-day ancestors
Barbara H
May 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Boston Globe , 7/17/12, had a fine review of this book, which recounts the horrors of the Armenian genocide in 1915. Initially I was hesitant whether I wanted to read this, since I was so disappointed by Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden, but because he excelled with Skeletons at the Feast I decided that this would be interesting. I have entered the waiting list at my library.


It seems logical that while reading this book, my thoughts would often turn to the
Elyse Walters
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing

Ambitious subject --I admire the courage and compassionate work it must have taken for the author to write this book: absolutely extraordinary! Only a talented writer could have created an historical fiction --and have it be as enjoyable as this book is (it spite of the profound powerful vital seriousness of the subject).

The writing is breathtaking -- elegantly constructed. I found myself slowing down to savor sentences even as the story had me impatient to turn the next
Dan Radovich
Mar 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
In my opinion, this is the best work from Bohjalian. Knowing his passion for this subject made the experience all the more meaningful. This is so much more than a powerful history story, it is a wonderful love story - the love of an author and his heritage and craft. Thank you for bringing this story to us, Chris.
Diane S ☔
Mar 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
4.5 This book was incredibly difficult for me to read, and yet without books like these horrific events and the people who survived them would be forgotten. The Armenian genocide of 1915, is not something we learned in school and Bohjalian does a masterful job of presenting it in all its honesty and horror. Yet amongst the cruelty, there are instances of love and kindness and caring, even by those who were ordered to carry out these atrocities. Human people, with real human feelings, yet just a ...more
Joy D
Do not be deceived by the cover or title. This book is not a light romance or beach read. It is historical fiction about the Armenian Genocide in Turkey in 1915. The plot revolves around a set of photos of the refugees taken by German soldiers that are confiscated but resurface many years later. It is told in dual timeline, with the vast majority set in Syria, where the Armenian refugees had arrived after their horrific march through the Turkish desert. The modern timeline is set in 2012, with t ...more
Jul 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
More than just a recounting of a horrendous time in history, this is a personal journey, a love story, from past to present showing how the stories in our past color the way we see our present and our future. An eloquent tale showing how the strength of the human spirit to continue on despite horrific circumstances, and, yet, at the same time, how easily it can be broken.

If you don't know the history behind the mass genocide of Armenians in 1915, you'll learn it from a point of view that I doub
Marci carol
Mar 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book! I love how this book was written with all the different characters speaking while intertwined! It’s a historical fiction novel regarding the Armenian genocide. It was absolutely fascinating and not for the weak of heart. There’s many hard core things that went totally against humanity but history needs to be told not to repeat itself again.
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Love and war.

This story of fiction deals with events from the past that are true.
The author successfully ingrains in your mind the stark reality of war and the tragic accounts of the brave characters contained within.
Women who have lost it all, no clothes on their backs or food to eat eyewitness to brutal slaying and murder of their kin to live and tell the tale.
You will learn of the genocide of 1915, a time of slaughter ‘The Great Catastrophe,’ a year you possibly wont forget once you finished
Jul 30, 2012 rated it liked it
I was not impressed. I did not know (as the book says) about the Armenian genocide and so it was interesting to learn a bit of history. The story, though, was at first confusing and then just too contrived for my liking.

I thought the writing was at times too stiled and Bohjalian was trying too hard. He wanted to paint a broad picture, but sometimes his details were lacking. For example: “‘I hope it’s not only vengeance,’ he tells her, though that is indeed the largest part of it—that and the rag
B the BookAddict
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I do like this concept; a novel where the main character is writing a novel. Laura, a writer from suburban New York is stumbles upon evidence that her grandmother lived through the genocide in Armenia in 1915. The book moves between modern times and the life of her grandmother revealing a wonderful story of determination, charity, love and family secrets. I love it when a book shows the reader occurrences in history we which may not been aware of. Armenian history was not new to me but this nove ...more
Jan 01, 2013 rated it liked it
I was aware of the genocide of the Armenian people back in World War I days, but could only recall that it happened. I believe it was taught as a fact in world history in the junior year of high school. It was just there at the periphery of my brain. No details.
This book filled in all the details and then some. What is so shocking to me in hindsight is that a second such travesty played out in World War II with the Jews! All the signs were there, but went unread until way late.
This was not an
May 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, historical

I often mention how odd it is to start a Netgalley book without easy access to the synopsis; unless I know the publisher or author works in a specific genre, I'm at a loss, having read the book description before requesting it and then, being me, having promptly forgotten it among the other few dozen I asked for. It's drastically changed my reading habits, this Kindle/Netgalley combo. So, Sandcastle Girls: sounds like a beach book!

It's not. It's really not.

One of the two threads of the book
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Well written book with a cast of finely drawn characters. 21 year old Elizabeth Endicott travels to Aleppo which is now a part of modern day Syria and is according to Wikipedia, "one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world." In 1915 when Elizabeth travels there, it is a city that is receiving refugees from the Armenian genocide. I didn't know anything about the Armenian genocide, so this book served as a valuable history lesson. In the book and apparently commonly, the genocide ...more
JoAnne Pulcino

Christopher Bohjalian

Christopher Bohjalian is an enormously gifted and talented storyteller who has set himself up to be the keeper of the flame. As in previous novels Mr. Bohjalian mystically zeros in on the lesser know but horrendous atrocities that should never be forgotten with an engrossing storyline and he never hits a false note in his elegant and exquisite prose.

THE SANDCASTLE GIRLS is a mesmerizing work of historical fiction influenced by the author’s heritage and d
Joseph Sciuto
Jun 25, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could say that Mr. Bohjallan’s, The Sandcastle Girls,” about the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by the Turks in which 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children, were killed and perished in the Syrian dessert was shocking to me but it wasn’t. I knew of the genocide, but not in great detail. I wish I could say that the horrifying images that the author brilliantly described made me want to vomit but they didn’t.

And why not one might ask, and the answer is because I have read and talked to
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Chris Bohjalian is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 24 books. His work has been translated into 35 languages and become three movies and an Emmy-nominated TV series.

His new novel, THE LIONESS, roars May 10, and is already in development for a limited TV series. A luxurious African safari turns deadly for a Hollywood star and her entourage in this riveting historical thriller, about whic

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51 likes · 6 comments
“But history does matter. There is a line connecting the Armenians and the Jews and the Cambodians and the Bosnians and the Rwandans. There are obviously more, but, really, how much genocide can one sentence handle?” 51 likes
“When it seems you have nothing at all to live for, death is not especially frightening.” 30 likes
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