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Euphoria (2014)

by Lily King

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1,9121266,156 (3.88)130
"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" --… (more)
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Euphoria was loosely inspired by Margaret Mead (called Nell in this book) and the time she spent in the 1930s doing her fieldwork along the Sepik river in New Guinea with her husband Reo Fortune (Fen) and the British anthropologist Gregory Bateson (Bankson).
However, Lily King reinvented the story, as well as the whole landscape where it takes place, together with the tribes living in the area which have different names, but are based on King's research and feel very real.

The novel touches on many topics; marriage and power play between two life partners and fellow scientists competing in the same field, the intellectual attraction, gender roles in the indigenous and Western societies, observing and being observed, the dichotomy of a "savage" and a "civilized man" etc. In the (dark) heart of it is the euphoria of discovery and "understanding", the ambition and the foolish arrogance.

This is the best novel I've read this year, it is so much more than the sum of its parts. The writing is excellent from the first paragraph to the last one. Bankson's narration (such an amazing character that truly came alive in this book) and Nell's journal entries are intertwined with great pacing and measure. I'm excited to explore Lily King's other work.



( )
  ZeljanaMaricFerli | Sep 8, 2020 |
Euphoria by Lily King fictionally encompasses the life of Margaret Mead. The story centers on a love triangle of three anthropologists in 1930’s New Guinea. The hardships and medical problems alarm this reader. Why do people forsake comfort and head into darkness and for what rewards? The story transplants the reader into a story like The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The language flowers the area with beauty. The events plunge into realism and despair. ( )
  delphimo | Aug 25, 2020 |
A short and touching book which brings the reader into the world and work of anthropologists as they search for meaning. ( )
  Chrissylou62 | Aug 1, 2020 |
Another book about anthropologists in the field. Apparently this is loosely base don part of Margaret Mead's life. I have a lot of opinions about field anthropology and this is yet another novel to reinforce my thoughts.

So...this was OK but not great. I listened to audio on Hoopla and really did not enjoy the female narrator much, her style played into all of my feelings of field anthropologists as being pretentious and disruptive.

This largely takes place in Papua New Guinea and features a husband and wife (anthropologists) and a third single male anthropologist working nearby-ish. Love triangle, butting into their subjects lives, thefts, yada yada.

2.5 stars. ( )
  Dreesie | Jul 25, 2020 |
Despite the captivating idea it is based upon and some absolutely exquisite turns of phrase, I didn't love this book. Themes of violence, both external and domestic; a man's jealousy of his wife's success; a quest for fame over truth in science; the interference of scientists in studying other cultures are all relevant to the moment and fascinating, yet the end result is far from edifying. Art need not edify, I suppose, but this somehow left an impression of hopelessness in the face of man's inhumanity to man and a dependence on eroticism to sell the story. It's a downer. A cleverly wrought downer, like a French film. At this time and place, at least, this was not a good read for me. ( )
  MMKY | Jul 3, 2020 |
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Epigraph
Quarrels over women are the keynote of the New Guinea primitive world. -- Margaret Mead
Experience, contrary to common belief, is mostly imagination. -- Ruth Benedict
Dedication
For my mother, Wendy, with all my love
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As they were leaving the Mumbanyo, someone threw something at them.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"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" --

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