Monday, July 21, 2014

Euphoria


Euphoria by Lily King takes place in New Guinea in the 1930s. British anthropologist Andrew Bankson experiences ambivalence about his work and has loneliness so profound that he is in despair and is suicidal. When fellow anthropologists Nell Stone and her husband, Australian Fenwick Schuyler (known as Fen) appear, Bankson is elated. 

Nell and Fen have fled the Mumbanyo tribe under questionable circumstances and are looking for a new tribe to study. Bankson is only too happy to help--anything to keep them from leaving. He takes them several miles down the Sepik river to the Tam tribe that intrigues Nell and Fen, and they decide to stay.

The novel alternates between Bankson's narration and Nell's journal entries. The relationship between Nell and the volatile Fen is strained, and in the course of events, a complicated love triangle develops. In the end, Fen's jealousy of Nell's success and his own greed are the undoing of the three and put their lives in danger.

I liked reading about the different ways the three anthropologists approached their work. King offers insights about the study of anthropology in this compelling story. Also interesting is the depiction of the Tam tribe that Nell and Fen study and the customs of the tribe. 

Euphoria is loosely based on the experiences of Margaret Mead, her second husband, anthropologist Reo Fortune, and her third husband, British anthropologist Gregory Bateson. Reading the novel makes me want to learn more about Margaret Mead and her work.

Euphoria is a novel that would be a great choice for a book club.   

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