Jen K’s #CBR5 Review #73: The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian

As much as I’ve read about the Holocaust, I have never actually done much research on the Armenian Genocide. I knew it happened under Turkish rule during World War I and that over a million Armenians died but I would not have been able to tell you the political motivations behind this or how they went about it. Naturally, I was very happy to see that Bohjalian, an author I quite enjoy, had decided to tackle that subject. However, since I felt his last novel before this (The Night Strangers) was a bit lackluster compared to his other works, I held off and waited for the paperback version to come out, and I’m glad I waited. This was a perfectly good book, but I wanted more. Bohjalian’s Holocaust novel Skeletons at the Feast was incredible – it was moving, heartbreaking, it focused on a slightly different topic from other World War II novels, and was just a fantastic read. I hoped he would bring that same type of writing to this novel, especially considering that he mentions his own Armenian heritage in the acknowledgments.
Unfortunately, this was not the case. The novel was good, but it wasn’t anything spectacular. Perhaps I expected too much of Bohjalian since I wanted to be educated and drawn into the story. In the case of authors writing about the Holocaust, it is easier to get straight to the story, and the individuals in the novel because they can assume that everyone has a basic background of the history. Therefore, the approach Bohjalian used in this novel may very well have worked in a Holocaust novel because I would have been filling in the blanks on my own.

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