Author: Lily King
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pub date: June 3, 2014
Read if you like: State of Wonder or love triangles a la The Great Gatsby and Gone With the Wind.
This is simply a good book. King’s writing is beautiful and the story is thrilling. I could fully understand how a reader might devour this book in just one day, but I found myself wanting to slow down and allow myself to truly take in her prose.
King is inventive with her usage of first person narrative. Our narrator is just one man, but occasionally he takes on an omniscient perspective without explanation, giving us an account of a moment he was absolutely not present for. We are also given diary entries and letters as a way into the thoughts of the other participants in the narrative. King basically does whatever she wants to get you whatever information she chooses and I like that about her. In this powerful first person narrative, King is able to place you in their grungy shoes – amidst the bugs in their eyes and their unwashed bodies and the stench of the village in the hot sun.
What I loved most about this story was the strong, intelligent female at the center of it all. Nell is smart, and the men (and women) who come into her life are attracted to her for that exact reason. She goes about integrating herself into each tribe with a full plan to back her up, knowing how she might falter and correcting that before a problem could arise. She knows her weaknesses – that she learns language slower than she would like, that she is restricted from parts of the village because she is a woman – and attempts to combat them. She makes flashcards to learn the new language faster. She works with a male partner so they can each get a side of the story.
I liked being immersed in Nell’s world. I liked reading about a character who was so passionate about her field that she was willing to put herself in risky situations and isolate herself from her loved ones at home. I liked that she was the more successful than the men in her field, both in recognizability and business savvy. I liked that the men around her couldn’t resist her and her mind. The romance in this novel is primarily intellectual, and only becomes physical in what feels like an afterthought.
SYNOPSIS: (AS TOLD BY THE BACK OF THE BOOK)
Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is a captivating story of three young, gifted anthropologists of the 1930s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and ultimately their lives.