The year 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide, and Chris Bohjalian’s novel, “The Sandcastle Girls,’’ represents just the beginning of what will be a steady stream of publications remembering this tragedy. Unlike his mystery books, this one is a historical romance.
Her quest takes her back to 1915, when the rulers of the Ottoman Empire used World War I as an opportunity to exterminate the Armenian minority, whom they feared might ally itself with the Russians. Many Armenians were outright massacred; many more were exiled on forced death marches through the desert.
Through Elizabeth and Armen’s travels and travails, we are taken from the battleground of Gallipoli to the concentration camp of Dar-El-Zor, meeting missionaries, soldiers, and victims along the way. Bohjalian (three of his four Armenian grandparents died in the genocide and war) resists caricature and presents this appalling history largely through the eyes of its victims and those who valiantly try to help them.