Euphoria by Lily King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The Euphoria in this book's title refers to the thrill an anthropoligist feels after being immersed in a foreign culture for a while, when you start to feel that you understand it - often mistakenly. In this book, that delusion is also applicable at a more personal level.
Lily King's novel, loosely based on Margaret Mead, is about three anthopologists who meet up in New Guinea. Nell Stone and Schuyler Fenwick (Fen) are a married couple, of whom Nell is far more renowned. This leads to some resentment from her husband. Andy Bankson is an English researcher whom they join forces with.
The three of them see the New Guinean society they are researching through very different eyes, and this creates further tension and competitiveness between them.
The book is mostly narrated by Bankson, who is the outsider in the group. This serves as an analog for the outsider nature of what the researchers are trying to do in New Guinea. Can Bankson ever truly understand what is going on in their relationships, or is this just the euphoria of a delusion?
King has written a compelling novel that brings the New Guinea of the 1930s to life, along with the excitement and challenges of being at the forefront of a new realm of scientific research. Some of the characters and storylines remain underdeveloped, but this is still an excellent read.
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