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Summary and book reviews of Euphoria by Lily King

Euphoria

by Lily King

Euphoria
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2014, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2015, 288 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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About this Book

Book Summary

From New England Book Award winner Lily King comes a breathtaking novel about three young anthropologists of the '30's caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives.

English anthropologist Andrew Bankson 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.

Set between two World Wars and inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is an enthralling story of passion, possession, exploration, and sacrifice from accomplished author Lily King.

1

As they were leaving the Mumbanyo, someone threw something at them. It bobbed a few yards from the stern of the canoe. A pale brown thing.

'Another dead baby,' Fen said.

He had broken her glasses by then, so she didn't know if he was joking.

Ahead lay the bright break in the curve of dark green land where the boat would go. She concentrated on that. She did not turn around again. The few Mumbanyo on the beach were singing and beating the death gong for them, but she did not look at them a last time. Every now and then when the four rowers—all standing, calling back to their people or out to other canoes—pulled at the same time, a small gust of wind struck her damp skin. Her lesions prickled and tightened, as if hurrying to heal in the brief dry air. The wind stopped and started, stopped and started. She could feel the gap between sensation and recognition of it, and knew the fever was coming on again. The rowers ceased rowing to stab a snake-...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Set against the lush tropical landscape of 1930s New Guinea, this novel charts British anthropologist Andrew Bankson's fascination for colleagues Nell Stone and her husband, Fen, a fascination that turns deadly. How far does the setting play a role in shaping events? Is there a sense that the three have created their own small universe on the banks of the Sepik River, far removed from the Western world? If so, by whose rules are they playing?
  2. "She tried not to think about the villages they were passing … 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 ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

This is a damn good book. It's a compelling story with fascinating characters. Cover to cover, it is just a really great read.

Now that we've got that out of the way I want to suggest you ignore other professional reviews of Lily King's Euphoria, at least until after you've read the book yourself. Don't get me wrong. There are no spoilers. But, had I read the reviews, I might have been turned off of this terrific novel about three scientists studying indigenous New Guinea tribes at the height of anthropology's golden age, the early 1930s. Here's the thing. Most of the reviews I've read (post book) wax on and on about famed anthropologist Margaret Mead and how much research King did in order to write the novel. This book is too fine to place so much emphasis on research, and for me, it is even misleading.   (Reviewed by Donna Chavez).

Full Review Members Only (804 words).

Media Reviews
Booklist

Set between the First and Second World Wars, the story is loosely based on events in the life of Margaret Mead...This is a powerful story, at once gritty, sensuous, and captivating.

The Washington Post

[It's] refreshing to see the world’s most famous anthropologist brought down to human scale and placed at the center of this svelte new book by Lily King.

New York Times Book Review

King is brilliant on the moral contradictions that propelled anthropological encounters with remote tribes… In King’s exquisite book, desire—for knowledge, fame, another person—is only fleetingly rewarded.

The Seattle Times

This is a riveting and provocative novel, absolutely first-rate.

San Francisco Chronicle

Thrilling... intense, seductive, sexual, and intellectual... There are so many exhilarating elements to savor... By the end of Euphoria, this reader sighed with wistful satisfaction, wishing the book would go on. Brava to Lily King.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The love lives and expeditions of controversial anthropologists Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson are fictionalized and richly reimagined in New England Book Award winner King's (Father of the Rain) meaty and entrancing fourth book.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Atmospheric...A small gem, disturbing and haunting.

Library Journal

Starred Review. This three-way relationship is complex and involving, but even more fascinating is the depiction of three anthropologists with three entirely diverse ways of studying another culture.

Author Blurb Andre Dubus III
It is simply one of the finest novels I've read in years, and it puts Lily King firmly in the top rank of our most accomplished novelists.

Author Blurb Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
With Euphoria, Lily King gives us a searing and absolutely mesmerizing glimpse into 1930's New Guinea, a world as savage and fascinating as Conrad's Heart of Darkness, where obsessions rise to a feverish pitch, and three dangerously entangled anthropologists will never be the same again. Jaw-droppingly, heart-stoppingly beautiful. I loved this book.

Author Blurb Karl Marlantes
I have come to expect Lily King's nuanced explorations of the human heart, but in this novel she pulled me in to the exotic world of a woman anthropologist working with undiscovered tribes in 1930s New Guinea and I was totally captivated

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The Hawthorne Effect

Elton MayoNell Stone, anthropologist in Lily King's Euphoria, notices the Hawthorne Effect in her work. What is this? Where did it originate?

In the 1920s and 1930s, the Western Electric Company's management wanted to improve production at their Hawthorne Plant on the outskirts of Chicago, Illinois. So they hired Elton Mayo, a consultant or "efficiency expert," to conduct some experiments, record his observations and then recommend a course of action that would boost output on the company's telephone parts assembly line.

Mayo concluded that using brighter lights might work. If the employees could see better, their productivity might improve. So new, brighter lights were installed over the line. Indeed, productivity improved. However, some time ...

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