“It’s that moment about two months in, when you think you’ve finally got a handle on the place. Everything clicks and it all feels within your grasp at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It’s the briefest, purest euphoria.”
Nell Stone and her husband Fen are anthropologists studying tribes in the New Guinea region in the 1930’s. The study of human cultures is still in its infancy and Nell and Fen are continually trying to find new and inventive ways of examining the tribes with whom they live. Nell has published a book that has made her a pioneer in the field, but has also incurred the jealousy of her husband. They have just finished living with and studying the Mumbanyo tribe when they meet up with Andrew Bankson, a British anthropologist. Their meeting with Andrew is fortuitous because Andrew’s loneliness and tragic memories of the past have recently driven him to attempt suicide.
It is amazing that Lily King invented the world of New Guinea along the Sepik River for us in the 1930’s. Each tribe that she depicts, the Mumbayno, the Kiona and the Tam, have their own distinctive cultures and rituals. Through the anthropologist’s study of these tribes, the book becomes an interesting commentary on the morality, customs, social roles and sexuality of humans. As Nellie, Bankson and Fen explore and try to learn as much as they can about the people they live with, they are forced to reflect on their own societies and mores.
This book is one in which you will make an emotional connection with the characters. Nellie is inquisitive, strong and compassionate and she finds a kindred spirit in Bankson. Fen, on the other hand, is jealous, petty, selfish and brutish. They way that this trio of characters interact with one another is enthralling. Bankson’s emotional and intellectual bond with Nell is a touching reminder that the simple act of human contact is all we need sometimes to make us feel hopeful. Nell’s relationship with Fen reminds us that sometimes in life we make detrimental choices that having lasting effects.
I loved this novel and I highly recommend it. Lily King has given us a brilliant piece of literature with EUPHORIA and I am not surprised that it has appeared on so many “must-read” summer book lists.
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