The Book Mark

Books that make the grade.

Tag Archives: Chris Bohjalian

The Light in the Ruins



Hard to imagine that Chris Bohjalian could write anything more dramatic than The Sandcastle Girls but he has with The Light in the Ruins (B+).

Written like a diary entry, the very first page is narrated by a ruthless murderer. Honestly, it is the most dramatic book opening I have ever read. If it had been written by anyone other than Chris Bohjalian, I would have put it down.  However, I have come to know that his novels are always worth the read even if I have to read with my teeth clenched. 

It’s 1944; war is in the air. The Rosati’s family villa in the south of Florence is well protected. Antonio and Beatrice Rosati, the Marchese and Marchesa, have two sons and a daughter. The villa is a thriving farm with livestock, olive tress and beautiful views. While the sons are active soldiers, their daughter Cristina enjoys her days spent at the villa entertaining her niece and nephew that is, until the Nazis invade their privacy.

Eleven years later, a female police officer is investigating the gruesome murder of Francesca Rosati.  She is the first murdered in a plan that if successful with eliminate the entire family.

Serafina is scarred from burns that almost killed her as she fought with the partisans against the Nazis during the war.  Being left for dead, there is little that she remembers. As the Rosati murder investigation progresses; she begins to piece things together.

Bohjalian combines historical fiction and suspenseful mystery into this well-written novel. While I found the story a bit too graphic at times, I was propelled through the story finishing it in one day. Clearly, not for the feint of heart The Light in the Ruins is definitely one to read. 

The Sandcastle Girls

The Sandcastle Girls (B+) by Chris Bohjalian is the most intense story I have every read.  In 2012 Laura Petrosian sees a photograph taken in Aleppo, Syria depicting a malnourished, emaciated Armenian woman.  The caption under the picture includes her grandmother’s name, Elizabeth Endicott.

In 1915, the Turks slaughtered a million and half Armenian people.  This genocide is “the slaughter you know next to nothing about”.  History books do not detail this massacre, children are not taught about it; yet it is one of the most devastating events to ever occur.

Bohjalian, an Armenian himself, made several unsuccessful attempts at writing this story.  Now with the centennial of the massacre approaching, there seemed no better time to bring it to the attention of the world.  It was a story that had to be written and he does it masterfully.

Elizabeth, Laura’s grandmother, went to Aleppo with her father on a philanthropic mission.  She understood that there was a war raging but she was totally unprepared for the horrific conditions she would find.  Almost as soon as she arrives she meets Armen, an Armenian engineer and knows that he is going to change her life forever.  He has survived the slaughter at Harput and is sure that his wife and child have not.  He is in Aleppo searching for anyone that would have news of them.

The Sandcastle Girls is a love story in the midst of war.  It is a story like none other.  It is extremely graphic. I read it in small doses. It is humanity at it’s worst and it is compelling.

My closest friend is Armenian. Her grandmother was a survivor and like the characters in the book her memories were too painful to speak about.  She said enough though to give her family a sense of the horror; they were aware of her loss.

The Turkish have never been made accountable for their actions.  It is time the world became aware of this unspeakable event. The Sandcastle Girls will certainly ignite the conversation and educate people regarding the unfathomable genocide the Armenian people endured.