Books, Documentaries, Reviews: January 5, 2016
EUPHORIA by Lily King
I recently listened to Lily King’s novel EUPHORIA, downloaded from the Maine library system.
This novel was listed among the years ten best in 2014 by The New York Times.
I really enjoyed this novel, which is somewhat based on an episode in the life of Margaret Mead, but which is so much more. King captures in the novel competing views on how one goes about practicing anthropology, something that is developing and changing anthropology in Mead’s time. What is at stake is the recognition of what can actually be learned from explorations into foreign cultures. The novel also asks what those cultures might learn about the anthropologists and their western culture. Thus, peripheral, but present in the novel, is also the impact western explorers have on previously “undiscovered” cultures.
The novel is dynamic and the story moves forward in good time. It can be read at the surface level of romance in an exotic place, but, as I said above, King is after more than that surface level.
Here’s The New York Times book review. I have dropped in a quote from the review:
In “Euphoria,” the novelist Lily King has taken the known details of that occasion — a 1933 field trip to the Sepik River, in New Guinea, during which Mead and her second husband, Reo Fortune, briefly collaborated with the man who would become her third husband, the English anthropologist Gregory Bateson — and blended them into a story of her own devising. The result is as uncanny as it is transporting. “Euphoria” is a meticulously researched homage to Mead’s restless mind and a considered portrait of Western anthropology in its primitivist heyday. It’s also a taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace — a love triangle in extremis.