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Scintillating, ironic, multi-hued

Euphoria : a novel

Title: Euphoria : a novel
By: Lily King

Irascible Fen, hyper-intelligent Nell, and shy Bankson are fictionalized versions of anthropologists Reo Fortune, Margaret Mead, and Gregory Bateson. The story derives from a documented and dramatic period in their real life along the Sepik River in New Guinea in the early 1930s, with a fictional interpretation and ending. I marvel at how Lily King brought me right into the middle of the story, with no heavy-handed exposition. Just as an anthropologist enters a village with no idea of the likes and dislikes, power struggles and romances among the inhabitants, the reader is enticed into being observant and learning as the book goes along.

At the beginning of the book, Nell travels back to Port Moresby by boat, in flight from a troubling 5 months with the (fictional) Mumbanyo people. "She tried not to think about the villages they were passing, the raised houses and the fire pits and the children hunting for snakes in the thatch with spears. All the people she was missing, the tribes she would never know and words she would never hear, the worry that they might right now be passing the one people she was meant to study, a people whose genius she would unlock, and who would unlock hers, a people who had a way of life that made sense to her."

Threading third person narrative with first person reminiscences from Bankson and excerpts from Nell’s journals, King writes imaginatively, allowing us detailed insight into their characters. Fen is the least known of the three, and the least likeable, which makes me curious to learn more about Reo Fortune. On my second reading, I was just as fascinated by this scintillating, ironic, and multi-hued novel—a sign of true accomplishment by the author. It is not for nothing that this book was chosen by the New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 best books of 2014.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction

Posted on Feb. 18, 2015 at 3:45 a.m.

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