Anthropology of an American Girl- Hilary Thayer Hamann
This ambitious work explores the sexual and intellectual awakening of a young American woman struggling to remain true to herself as she encounters love, passion, and death amid the challenges and heartbreaks of growing up. Newly edited and revised, Hilary Thayer Hamann’s Anthropology of an American Girl is an extraordinary piece of writing, original in its vision and thrilling in its execution.
Self-published in 2003, the book touched a nerve among readers, who identified with the sexual and intellectual awakening of its heroine, a young woman on the brink of adulthood. A moving depiction of the transformative power of first love, Hamann’s first novel follows Eveline Auerbach from her high school years in East Hampton, New York, in the 1970s through her early adulthood in the moneyed, high-pressured Manhattan of the 1980s.
Centering on Evie’s fragile relationship with her family and her thwarted love affair with Harrison Rourke, a professional boxer, the novel is both a love story and an exploration of the difficulty of finding one’s place in the world. As Evie surrenders to the dazzling emotional highs of love and the crippling loneliness of heartbreak, she strives to reconcile her identity with the constraints that all relationships—whether those familial or romantic, uplifting to the spirit or quietly detrimental—inherently place on us. Though she stumbles and strains against social conventions, Evie remains a strong yet sensitive observer of the world around her, often finding beauty and meaning in unexpected places.
OK. I'm nothing if not 100% honest with my readers about everything I write about and my book reviews are no different. I did not finish this book. For me to say that is a huge deal because I finished two books I absolutely hated, including Wuthering Heights and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. But the difference with those books were that I really felt like it'd come around and I'd eventually get it. I didn't, but throughout both books I really felt like it'd come around.
And I've really thought about what it was about this book that couldn't draw me in. And you know what it was? The overuse of adjectives. Basically the entire writing style. For this being a debut novel it's really heavy. I found myself having re-read passages because I might just be stupid, but I didn't get it. The entire story is meant to be written from the point of view of a woman who is recalling her first love and the ones that came after yet... reading this I'm thinking, "I know high school wasn't like this and I didn't speak like this at all." It never felt authentic and it never felt like something that would logically be happening. Here's an example:
"Jack's body had not yet moved. He was like a jetty rock, obstinate and motionless against the savage force of the sea. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do or say so I waited, passing time by thinking of things I knew. I knew that he loved me desperately, never more so than at that moment. I knew that he was ready, aroused for once by the honorableness of his emotions, and yet the anger that moved him had no means of expression. How betrayed he must have felt by his belligerent pacifism, by the ambivalence he'd constantly displayed. He was thinking that the attack had not been arbitrary, that it had happened to me for a reason. He was thinking the reason was him."
Ok. Now, what did that even mean?? Because I'm not sure. Part of me is sad that I'll never know what happened between Jack and Evie but on the other hand, who cares? After getting half way through the book I can't even tell you what it was even really about, what the story was. There was nothing in any of the pages I read that made me want to turn another page and keep going. For me, reading is an escape and it should be fun. I don't like having to think a whole lot about what I'm reading to process it. I like being able to relate to a book within my own life or back story and even though I've been a teenage girl working through the weird phases and first loves and all of that... I could not relate. In the end, I feel like the author has tried too hard to write a book that would be a classic, or something that would end up on a must read list somewhere.
See what other bloggers had to say about this book HERE and check out the book page HERE. Now, although this wasn't the kind of book meant for me, it might be for you. And I am never one to discourage a person from reading a book. I really think that someone with an interest in literature, writing, or books around this theme would really enjoy it. Of all of the reviews I've read it seems pretty divided as far as you really like it or you don't. But I say try it.
In fact, I would like one of you to read it and tell me what you thought about it. The publisher is offering one of my readers their very own copy of this book (US/Canada only, no PO boxes). All you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address and I will draw a winner on Wednesday, so enter now!