"As they were leaving the Mumbanyo, someone threw something at them."
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.”
From the critically-acclaimed author of Father of the Rain comes a breathtaking novel about three gifted and groundbreaking anthropologists of the 30s bound together by an all-consuming passion.
For years, English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field studying the Kiona tribe of Papua, New Guinea. Haunted by the memory of his brother’s public suicide, and increasingly infuriated with and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of killing himself when a chance meeting with colleagues, the controversial and consummate Nell Stone and her wry Australian husband Fen, pulls him back from the brink. Nell and Fen have just finished their studies of the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo and, in spite of Nell’s ill health, the couple is ravenous for another new discovery. Together with Bankson they set out to uncover the Tam, a local tribe with an almost mythic existence. As the trio settle with the tribe in their paradisiacal surroundings, inspiration flows and mutual affections swell. In the midst of this new, unchartered territory, Nell, Bankson, and Fen must learn not only to adapt to their invigorating present, but to also confront their complicated and haunted pasts.
Set between two World Wars, and based on the adventures of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is a luminous and remarkable story of the power of possibility, imagination, and memory, from accomplished author Lily King.
I feel like Anthropologists are all the 'up-n-coming' rage. You heard it from me first, I'm just saying. I'm not going to compare this to The People in The Trees because the only similarity is just that, Anthropology. However, I loved both these books for different reasons and maybe the topic of Anthropology is an itch I didn't even know I needed scratched. Once a topic gets enough attention, you start seeing it everywhere. So wait for it... because I know this is destined to be the next "hip" topic.
So yeah, this book revolves around a trio of Anthropologists living and studying the region of Papua, New Guinea. This trio includes a unnerving couple that don't seem to mesh well at all and a loner Anthropologist who is pensive and looking to ease his loneliness. Each of these people are incredibly gifted and show a very different side of what an Anthropologist is really all about. Nell, the warm but questioning one who wants to find the perfect balance of culture and ideas, and thinks this can be found my studying multiple tribes and comparing them with our own civilization. Fen, the husband, is all about living among the tribes and becoming one of them to better understand the why. Bankson is a little reserved and likes to stay back and observe from the shadows, without interfering with the people and their customs.
You can't help fall in love with Nell, which seems pretty universal when it comes to those around her, I mean she was modeled after Margaret Mead! However, on the other side of the coin... you can't help but detest Fen for his arrogant, bullying, chauvinistic personality. The minute we see these two interact, you know there'll be trouble. He constantly dismisses and demoralizes her and at the same time you see her hesitate but think better of it and just relent to his constant dribble. This dynamic between the two is so stark and disturbing, the hatred for Fen can only increase from there. Then cue Bankson, the adorable and laid back guy who has only the utmost respect and adoration for Nell. You can't help but want them to fall into each others arms desperately in love. I guess this book has a lot of "you can't help" moments, and maybe the Author leads us down this path purposely. I won't give much away as to what happens, but I think this is a book with a few surprises for everyone.
I've established that the characters are wonderfully written and have quite a bit of depth but what about the story-line, what about the tribes? Surprisingly, I don't remember much about them... little tidbits here and there but nothing substantial. I want to say that the brevity spent with the Tam rituals and culture took away from the meat and potatoes of the book, but it really didn't. I'm OKAY that it wasn't the focus, I think having the characters be the shining star really worked well for this book, I wanted to know more about the tribes, yes... but I also loved seeing them through the eyes of the different main characters. The realistic details the Author writes in, like how the bugs gravitate towards someones mouth because of the moisture in high temps. It's the little details like that which have a compelling but realistic look at what it might be like to live amongst a native tribe with hardly any new world comforts at your disposal. As much as I would love to visit places like this, I don't know if I would have the guts to live among them for months at a time.
Overall, this story is one of my favorites this year and I'll highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good romantic triangle without the cheese, I will even recommend this to anyone who has that same Anthropological itch as me. Should I have pursued Anthropology as a career? Possibly! I do love to people watch! Does that count? Ha!
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