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Euphoria by Lily King – Book Review

A novel about anthropologists, inspired by a true account of Margaret Mead (American cultural anthropologist) Lily King’s Euphoria is a pacey story about romance, heartache, grief, and the unexpected. It captures New Guinea in the 1930s, following three young inquisitive workers who let their personal lives overcome their professional relationships, eventually leading to disaster. 

Two Americans and a British man become circumstantial friends whilst each studying the tribes of Papua, New Guinea. It’s 1933 and Andrew Bankson meets within this group Nell Stone, the woman he obsesses over. Bankston has found himself in this line of work by trying to fulfill his dead father’s wishes that at least one of his sons lands up in the scientific. He’s also striving hard to become the son his mother wanted, whilst not letting his own self disappear with the demise of his brothers. 

Married couple Nell and Fen have been in the area making anthropological observations for some time. Fen is a forthright character who can be aggressive and deceitful, showing his jealousy of Nell’s success. Nell is also a renowned anthropologist and writer, known for her contentious studies of the South Pacific tribes. As she and Bankson develop stronger feelings for each other, envy grows between Fen and Bankson, as it’s clear that, although creating great work together, they’re not content with simply a professional partnership. Envy unravels, risking lives. 

A riveting novel that makes you want to know more about the culture of New Guinea, and find out who ends up with Nell, so much so that it’s impossible to put down. King’s ability to harness the tension within the tribe, as well as amongst the three anthropologists, is what determines the success of this book. Euphoria will make you want to race through, following these difficult characters to the end. 

Euphoria by Lily King was re-issued 26th January, published by Picador.

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