Saturday, August 19, 2017

Euphoria by Lily King

When I first saw the title of the book Euphoria by Lily King on our bookclub reading list, I'll confess that I was expecting some kind of steamy romance. Instead, I found myself drawn into a fascinating story--and a love triangle--featuring a husband and wife team of anthropologists relocating to a new tribe in New Guinea after an unsettling time in another location. They encounter Bankston, a British anthropologist, who helps them locate a new place from which to work, down river from his base, promising to visit them soon.

For different reasons of their own, Nell and husband Fen are eager for his return, and disappointed that he waits so long. The narration moves between Nell's perspective and that of Bankston. Setting up housekeeping with more than the usual trappings one would expect in such private environs, Nell works feverishly, while Fen seems not to be taking notes at all. Fen's jealousy that Nell has already published and has been recognized for her work is apparent.

In a society in which the women seem to be dominant, Nell eventually is brought into their circle of trust. Some of the customs, particularly treatment of babies, are disturbing. The tribe also follows the custom of cutting off their own fingers at times of grief.

The novel, while taking great license, is based loosely on the life of the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead, and readers are likely to be interested enough to dig deeper into her story. However, the novel stands on its own as a fascinating, well-told tale.

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