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Euphoria presents a classic love triangle among three anthropologists in New Guinea between the world wars. The main charcter is Nell Stone, modeled after Margaret Mead, a free-thinking, insightful, deeply empathetic student of native cultures. Her husband Fen is her opposite, cynical, greedy and dismissive of local sentiments. Between them comes Bankson, the narrator, looking back years later on their brief time together in a small village, trying to control their lusts but not their ambitions. The story is well told, more absorbing and suspenseful as the book progresses. The author, like Nell, has a quick feel for other characters. Minor characters are well drawn with a few telling details. You especially feel for several of the villagers whose lives are changed by their observers.
The audiobook has a serious flaw, namely, the drab narration by Simon Vance. Bankson should be an energetic, passionate, vibrant young force of nature, despite his failed suicide attempt at the novel's start. Instead, Vance reads as a depressed and weary old man. This drains the novel of much of its excitement. Xe Sands, reading as Nell Stone, is far better, with the right enthusiasm and wonder in her voice. Overall, however, this was an excellent book.
36 of 37 people found this review helpful
This was one of those rare books that I couldn't put down from the minute I started it and couldn't stop reading till I had finished three days later. As a temperamental reader, I seldom find books these days that enchant me right from the first page and never let me drift off. The story was fantastic, the plot never rested, but the characters were fully drawn and kept you deeply engaged in their fate and in the things for which they were passionate - in this case their anthropological work.
It is a story about a character inspired by Margaret Mead and it follows her into tribal settings along with her very new husband and his very aggressive personality, jealousy and inability to imagine his life as her spouse rather than vice versa. A third anthropologist encounters them during their Sepic river studies and the trio's balance is upset by the tensions. Tragedy ensues. But how you get there is an intricate and fascinating path through tribal studies and the ecstasy, the euphoria, of thinking you are coming to understand some part of human nature up close.
The book was an intellectual adventure in addition to a well-told tale.
What is unusual for me is that I was not so happy with the audio version, despite the male reader, Simon Vance who is one of my favorite readers of all time - I kid you not I once actually wrote him 'fan mail' to let him know how much I had enjoyed his versions of the Anthony Trollope Barsetshire novels. Yet his reading didn't click for me in this narration, and I especially didn't enjoy having two different narrators - a male for the Bankson narration in the book and a female for the Nell Stone narration. It also wasn't consistent, since each narrator then had to read parts of all the characters in that section of the book - so you had two VERY different characterizations of the Australian accent for Fen.
Since I had purchased both the Kindle and Audible versions, I just finished the book entirely on the Kindle, although I had planned to alternate between the two. I think it's fair to conclude I prefer one continuous narrator for a novel and will think about that issue the next time I am presented with a choice.
Highly recommended novel whichever way you choose to hear it or read it - I look forward to reading Lily King's earlier novels.
46 of 50 people found this review helpful
This is a terrific book and would be enjoyed by those who want to be transported to another setting in another era as well as those concerned about knowledge generation and management, research ethics, and international development.
Beautifully written, poignant and redolent with early 20th century colonialism and paternalism, we also learn of the competition between junior academics, their 'ownership' of tribes and contact with Indigenous communities, and ethical guidelines maintained and broken.
Strongly recommended for those looking for an interesting novel (in part based on Margaret Mead) at the interface of development and the Pacific, 'modernity' and tradition, agency and dependancy...
2 of 2 people found this review helpful