Friday, November 21, 2014

Euphoria - Book Review

In the 1930s, three anthropologists, Nell, Fen, and Bankson, are exploring the indigenous tribes of the Territory of New Guinea in Lily King's novel Euphoria. Nell and Fen (an American and an Australian) are married and trying to have a baby in the midst of living in the jungles and studying and befriending the native peoples. Bankson (a Brit) is exploring and studying on his own, which makes him want to kill himself, but meeting up with Nell and Fen revives him. He is eager to have their company, Nell's in particular.

Unfortunately, tensions among the three of them begin to arise. Fen resents the success of Nell's books and how easy she and Bankson seem to get along and think alike. He has his own idea of how to achieve published success, but he doesn't take into account what it might cost him.

This is a really beautifully written story about love and passion (passion for people and for knowledge) in a remote and sometimes unknown setting. The story is told through the eyes of Bankson and through Nell's diary entries, which is a really nice juxtaposition.

While a work of fiction, the story is inspired by the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead and her few months together with Reo Fortune and Gregory Bateson in 1933 on the Sepik River of what was then called the Territory of New Guinea. Definitely makes me want to read more about these real people.

Euphoria is published by Atlantic Monthly Press and is on bookshelves now. I picked up a free review copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

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