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What readers think of Euphoria, plus links to write your own review.

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Euphoria

by Lily King

Euphoria by Lily King X
Euphoria by Lily King
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2014, 256 pages

    Paperback:
    Apr 2015, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
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Power Reviewer
Cathryn Conroy

A Piercing and Perceptive Tale of the Havoc Wreaked When Egos Collide and Sexual Tensions Run High
This is a sneaky book. It starts off at a crawl with the characters and plot unraveling at a slow, deliberate, and measured pace…until wham! At about the halfway point, the book just grabbed me in an intense, haunting, and almost disturbing way. I was sucked into it like quicksand. At first it was nothing, and then it wouldn't let go. And I couldn't stop reading.

Written by Lily King, this is award-winning literary fiction that is a diamond in the rough. It's the early 1930s. American Nell Stone and Brit Schuyler Fenwick, known as Fen, are married anthropologists studying primitive tribes living along the Sepik River in New Guinea. Nell has just published a mainstream book (that is, not an academic treatise) on Samoan child-rearing that includes information on their sexual practices. The book is a bestseller, giving Nell publicity and money. All Fen has done is publish a single academic monograph. He is deeply envious of Nell's commercial success, which has also landed them a lucrative grant for their work in New Guinea. As they are leaving one tribe, they meet up with another anthropologist, Andrew Bankson. At first, his friendship supports and strengthens Nell and Fen's troubled marriage, but soon enough Bankson's erotic feelings and sexual desire for Nell create a love triangle that infuriates Fen, who is determined to do something completely inappropriate and unethical—and as it turns out, tragic—to cement his own professional status over Nell.

The book is written primarily from Bankson's perspective in the first person. But other chapters from Nell's perspective are written in the third person, as well as excerpts from her journals that Bankson is given years later. Bankson has his own issues. His father and two brothers are dead, and Bankson has tried, but failed, to die by suicide. His professional life is stalled. He is deeply unhappy. But everything changes when he meets Nell.

And the ending is oh so sad.

This is a piercing, and perceptive tale of the human heart and the havoc that is wreaked when egos collide, sexual tensions run high, and smart people lose their sense of boundaries.

A note: The book was inspired by events in the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead and her relationships with her second and third husbands, R.F. Fortune and Gregory Bateson. Some of the story is true to Mead's life, and some of it is imagined.
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