—THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL

"Gorgeous detail and nuanced thought."
“Anthropology of an American Girl is an extraordinary debut, updating the 19th-century social-psychological novel of romance and manners. Like Jane Austen, George Eliot or Edith Wharton, Hamann critiques her era and culture through the tale of a precocious young woman buffeted by the accidents, values and consequences of her age.”
“Poetically rendered, astute perceptions.”
“One of the pleasures in this novel is a wealth of status-life details evoking the era. More deeply, it rivets through a rawness of complex emotion.”
“Hamann's particular gift is her language—syntax laden with metaphor and analogy, which fly effortlessly from Evie's philosophical, sensual way of seeing.”

Anthropology of an American Girl is an extraordinary debut, updating the 19th-century social-psychological novel of romance and manners. Like Jane Austin, George Eliot or Edith Wharton, H.T. Hamann critiques her era and culture through the tale of a precocious young woman buffeted by the accidents, values and consequences of her age. Trained in ethnographic and dramatic filmmaking, Hamann turns an anthropological eye on growing up female in the 1970s and early '80s within the subcultures of Sag Harbor, Long Island, bits of "Jersey" and Manhattan. We listen in on the poetically rendered, astute perceptions of Evie—artistically gifted, but left lonely by preoccupied, divorced parents, and then shaped by the needs and actions of men. In high school, she falls into kinship and sex with Jack, another creative loner, disaffected from his family, who finds sweet-raging solace as a musician. He's unable to save Evie from a drunken-party rape, and eventually blows his mind out on drugs and reaches his own Kurt Cobain conclusion. As Evie sees the limits of Jack's angst, she is drawn by lust and soulful connection to Rourke, an older prize fighter—proud and fearless like Ayn Rand's original Roark, but more sensitive and compassionate, desperately trying not to take advantage of Evie's youth. The central tragedy (and mystery) of the novel comes as he and Evie seem unable to keep social expectations and timing from separating them. In college, Evie allows her damaged spirit to fall inertly into a relationship of convenience with Mark, the conventional, monied, good provider. He distracts her loneliness and stabilizes her life, but is clueless to who she is beyond a beauty on his arm. While grateful for his care at first, Evie grows to see the hollowness of such a calculated, loveless relationship, and finally, in a surprising, romantic ending, she leaves to claim love on her own terms. One of the pleasures in this novel is a wealth of status-life details evoking the era. More deeply, it rivets through a rawness of complex emotion. Hamann ably draws from 20-year-old memories and journals to render what it feels like to be a certain kind of girl—an artist, an inward personality, a person to whom men are drawn like vultures, curators and owners. But Hamann's particular gift is her language—syntax laden with metaphor and analogy, which fly effortlessly from Evie's philosophical, sensual way of seeing. If, sometimes, the narrative energy almost suffocates under the weight of gorgeous detail and nuanced thought, we easily forgive for the pleasure of such an insightful, page-turning read.

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