Synopses & Reviews
A beautiful and resonant novel about a friendship that shaped a life during a decade of instability.
Everyone remembers age thirteen. For Alison Glass, it was 1975, the year she moved to Weston, Connecticut, with her bohemian parents and her horse, Jazz. Life was about trying to navigate the hypocrisies of an unfamiliar affluent town and figuring out how she might blend in at school despite her status as the new girl with a back brace for scoliosis. Kate Hamilton, the popular daughter of an egomaniacal New Age guru the "sham shaman" and his substance-loving wife, was an unlikely friend, the strong girl Alison regarded as her saving grace. Bonding over their love of horses, they rode away the afternoons, creating a private world for themselves as a way to survive the excesses of their surroundings and the adults who cast them adrift in such a tumultuous time. With the clarity of hindsight, Alison looks back on how the tumult inevitably broke through.
Set against the backdrop of the often hilariously tacky and disturbingly reckless 1970s, Aurelie Sheehan's luminous History Lesson for Girls is at once an emotional inquest and an elegy for a friendship that meant everything. As Alison traces the giddy highs and crushing lows that made her the person she was at thirteen, a picture emerges of a friendship that simply couldn't survive the weight of the shadows under which it was forged. Combining the poignancy and elegance of The Virgin Suicides with the sharp observational eye of The Ice Storm, History Lesson for Girls is an enchanting tribute to the lingering influence of friendship and significance of personal history.
"Set in 1975, Sheehan's second novel skillfully depicts an adolescent girl's small but resonant steps toward adulthood; unfortunately, the bigger steps are handled with a bit too much theatricality. The teenage tendency toward obsession whether for horses, a particular band or CD, or a single, all-consuming friendship provides the fuel for this uneven suburban coming-of-age, capturing with artful simplicity the quotidian magic of an improbable friendship. Unpopular 13-year-old Alison Glass, new to Weston, Connecticut and afflicted with scoliosis, and the popular, independent Kate Hamilton discover one another and the world. Sheehan nails important adolescent moments like playing it cool when offered a first cigarette or having one's taste in music scrutinized by a new friend. The quiet pleasures of the pair's private moments clash with increasingly stagy subplots: Alison's persistent fear of undergoing surgery to correct her spine, the over-the-top violence of Kate's drunk, greedy father, and the indiscrete affair between him and Alison's hippie mother. Sheehan perceptively identifies the outside world as a corrupting agent in fragile friendships; however, as Kate herself comments, 'It's usually not so damn obvious.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Sheehan's] language remains carefully off-kilter, gorgeously specific and shot through with unobtrusive wit." Kirkus Reviews
"A tender, unflinching, and distinctive view of how girls grow up." Booklist
Reminiscent of Jeffrey Eugenides' "The Virgin Suicides," this luminous novel, set against the backdrop of the often hilariously tacky and disturbingly reckless 1970s, is at once an emotional inquest into and an elegy for a friendship that meant everything.
In her follow-up to the critically acclaimed novel The Anxiety of Everyday Objects
, Aurelie Sheehan presents a moving coming-of-age story set in the disturbingly reckless and often hilariously tacky 1970s. In 1975, Alison Glass, age thirteen, moves to Connecticut with her bohemian parents and her horse, Jazz. Shy, observant, and in a back brace for scoliosis, Alison finds strength in an unlikely friendship with Kate Hamilton, the charismatic but troubled daughter of an egomaniacal New Age guru and his substance-loving wife. Seeking refuge from the chaos in their lives, the girls escape into the world of their horses. Rich in humor and heartbreak, History Lesson for Girls
is an elegy to a friendship that meant everything.
About the Author
Aurelie Sheehan is an assistant professor of fiction at the University of Arizona and the author of the critically acclaimed short story collection Jack Kerouac is Pregnant. She's worked in a variety of jobs, some suspiciously secretarial, and has received a Pushcart Prize, a Carmargo Fellowship, and the Jack Kerouac Literary Award.