Saturday, July 11, 2015

Book Review: "Euphoria" by Lily King

"Euphoria" by Lily King
First published in 2014
257 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
Image from Goodreads
*Book won in a Goodreads giveaway from Atlantic Monthly Press

The Short Of It:
Three anthropologists, 1930s New Guinea, and a fiery love triangle with untold consequences. "Euphoria" was an intense, fast read brimming with adventure, history and sexual tension.

The Long Of It:
This riveting story of three young anthropologists studying primitive tribes in 1930s New Guinea is part love story, part tragedy, part cultural study and part historical fiction.

Nell Stone -- loosely based on pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead -- and her husband, Fen, have just spent the past several months living with and studying New Guinea's violent and aggressive Mumbanyo tribe when a chance encounter with fellow anthropologist Andrew Bankson changes the course of life for all three of them.

Nell and Fen have a rocky marriage; Fen is emasculated and jealous of Nell's success in their field, and Nell is reeling from a miscarriage and the couple's chilling months with the Mumbanyo. Andrew, who has spent the last several years living with a tribe along the Sepik River, is engulfed in loneliness and despair, and he's contemplating suicide. Our three protagonists are all in very dark places when they meet on Christmas Eve; they're drawn to each other in a way so intense it's almost dangerous -- each needing something from the others -- and they all fall just a little bit in love. But that love puts their blossoming careers -- and even their lives -- in jeopardy.

The story of Nell, Fen and Andrew is gripping by itself, but I really enjoyed learning more about the birth of the anthropology field and the primitive tribes of New Guinea. Our narrators tells us of human sacrifice, infanticide and unusual sexual practices, but there's also simplicity, friendship and acceptance. It took me a couple chapters to really get into the story, but once I did I was off and away and devoured the rest of the tale. King is a talented writer, and she's skilled at evoking vivid imagery without being long-winded.

The beautiful cover of "Euphoria," with its vibrant rainbow eucalyptus tree and it's lovely raised white lettering, is one of my all-time favorites, and -- seeing as I am a self-confessed offender of judging books by their covers -- I had really high hopes for this novel. I'm pleased to say it didn't disappoint.

1 comment:

  1. It's a very notable cover! I remember thinking when I first saw it that it was some sort of abstract art, but I didn't realize until your post that it's actually rainbow eucalyptus bark. I've seen other photos of those trees; they're astonishing.

    The book itself sounds fascinating, compelling, and very good, albeit probably not my "thing" - though your review makes me almost wish it were (my thing, that is.) Well done!


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