My last book to read for September, The Sandcastle Girls: A Novel, I was most looking forward to it, yet it took me the longest to pick it up and start reading. I enjoyed Chris Bohjalian’s The Double Bind, even though it dealt with heavy subject matter, and I figured this book would be about the same.
I am very glad that I made myself “read for just 15 minutes” that late evening when I did, because I kept reading for a few hours and got lost in this tale of Elizabeth and Armen. This isn’t your typical love story, not only because it’s set against the backdrop of the Armenian genocide, but because it’s told in the present as Elizabeth and Armen’s granddaughter learns about them, and also in flashback as Elizabeth and Armen are living their lives.
I will admit that the first ime I’d heard of the Armenian genocide was on an episdoe of Khole and Lamar. I will also admit that if I hadn’t have at least have heard about it before, I wouldn’t have read the book so soon, it probably would still be staring at me from my to do list.
The book tells the story of Laura and how a picture of a woman with her maiden name leads her to learn about her grandparents, the picture and the associated letters and diary entries written by her grandmother as a visitor to Syria for the Friends of Armenians lead her to remember and put into context stories and things she saw in her childhood.
In flashback, Laura’s grandparents Elizabeth and Armen meet, become fast friends, and then Armen leaves to continue his journey to fight against the forces that have robbed him of his wife, child, and his country. It is a beautiful and tragic love story, simple in it’s construction, although I wish there was more of Elizabeth and
Armen’s life in the United States. The love story takes a back seat to the history lesson, even though this is a work of fiction.
I think the book is beautifully written, and I understand why the author didn’t go into more history detail. But that fact also left me confused as to where the genocide falls into the history of the world. It appears to have happened around the same time that Hitler was doing his worst. I wish I’d paid more attention in history class, but the book was a good jumping off place to learn more about history. Only 43 of the 50 United States and 21 countries recognize what happened as a genocide, but there really is no other word for the attempt at destroying an entire population.