Saturday, September 6, 2014

Review: Euphoria by Lily King

Anthropology is not a reading topic I'm apt to run right out and grab off the shelf. I'm marginally aware of what the subject matter purports to study, and I'm minimally acquainted with Margaret Mead's early studies.  That's about where my background ends.  Euphoria is an articulate exposè (albeit fictional) of the early history of the practitioners of the craft. The publisher offers this recap:

.... a breathtaking novel about three young anthropologists of the ‘30’s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives.
English anthropologist Andrew Banson has been alone in the field for several years, studying the Kiona river tribe in the Territory of New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brothers’ deaths and increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when a chance encounter with colleagues, the controversial Nell Stone and her wry and mercurial Australian husband Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just fled the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell’s poor health, are hungry for a new discovery. When Bankson finds them a new tribe nearby, the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and romantic firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control.
Set between two World Wars and inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is an enthralling story of passion, possession, exploration, and sacrifice from accomplished author Lily King.
The ill-fated three-sided love story pulled me in emotionally.  The scenes of tribal practices left me less than excited, although from a strictly intellectual perspective, like all new material, I found the descriptions riveting.  It's a short book, the action moves along at a decent pace, and the publisher's addition of end-papers with a map of the region was extremely helpful.  While it did not entice me to set off for more on the subject matter, neither did it tempt me to stop reading until the book was finished.  It's well worth the read, even if this isn't your normal cuppa.  I certainly would recommend it to readers with an interest in South Pacific early tribal customs.

Title: Euphoria
Author: Lily King
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (2014), Edition: 1ST, Hardcover, 256 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: Anthropology
Setting: South Pacific Islands
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Why did I read this book now?  It's being reviewed for consideration for the 2015 Maine Reader's Choice Award.
Many thanks to publisher Atlantic Monthly Press for the review copy.


  1. Started listening to this one, but it just wasn't my thing, so I never finished:(

  2. This is certainly different than my usual reading. I'm considering whether I might like to try it. Thanks for the review.


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