Tuesday, October 9, 2012

{read: historical fiction} The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

This was another book on my fall TBR list, and I was eager to read it after hearing Chris speak about it on his book tour this summer. Pieces of it are autobiographical (he is Laura's brother) but the story itself, which revolves around the Armenian genocide that the Turks committed in WWI, is fictional. (It's not his grandparents' story that he's telling.) The genocide, however, is true, and it's amazing that we as a society have erased this from our collective conscience while we remember the Holocaust. The details of the genocide in the book are horrifying, but the storyline kept me turning the pages.

Some of the suspense was lost, however, because of the way the story was told. The reader knows from the beginning that Armen and Elizabeth both survive and get married, so the story is more about how they manage it. I thought the story would had more suspense if I hadn't known that, but it would have changed the entire structure of the plot, which is Laura (the granddaughter) investigating her grandparents' history. The book also felt a little stilted to me, pushing me away. Laura's sections are told in first person, but the sections about Armen and Elizabeth are in third person. Also, truth be told, I didn't find Laura to be that interesting as a character.

I think this is an important book to read because we should learn about the Armenian genocide and, for me, fiction is a more pleasant way to learn history than reading nonfiction. However, as a story, this was only average for me and didn't measure up to his previous work.

The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday, 2012)
My rating:  3 stars

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