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Euphoria (Deckle edge) Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 3, 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 1,297 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2014: If I tell you that Euphoria is a novel loosely based on the life of the anthropologist Margaret Mead, your eyes will start to glaze over. Well, they shouldn’t--not when the novel is as wonderful as this one. Its both romantic and intelligent, a combination you don’t need to be a scientist to know doesn’t appear often in nature. Mead, a controversial character in real life, is here transmuted into the equally complex (and somewhat sickly) Nell Stone, who has made a reputation for herself by studying native tribes in New Guinea. Her husband, also an anthropologist, is more jealous than dutiful, although he does manage to make her feel inadequate for failing to produce a baby. Enter a charming-but-tortured third anthropologist, who at times seems to be unsure to which of his new friends he’s more attracted. Sparks of the emotional and sexual kind fly, but what’s even more interesting is the portrait of a growing friendship based at least partly on philosophy and attitudes toward “primitive” cultures. You know from the beginning that some bad things are going to happen, but it is to King’s great credit (and the fact that she changes some of the events in Mead’s life) that you can’t really guess what they are. This is the best kind of historical novel--the kind that sent me running to read more about its real-life inspiration. --Sara Nelson

From Booklist

Just after a failed suicide attempt, Andrew Bankson, English anthropologist studying the Kiona tribe in the territory of New Guinea, meets a pair of fellow anthropologists fleeing from a cannibalistic tribe down river. Nell Stone is controversial and well respected. Her rough Australian husband, Fen, is envious of her fame and determined to outshine her. Bankson helps them find a new tribe to study, the artistic, female-­dominated Tam. Nell’s quiet assurance and love of the work, and Fen’s easy familiarity, pull Bankson back from the brink. But it is the growing fire between him and Nell that they cannot do anything about. Layered on top of that is Nell’s grasp of the nuances of the Tam, which makes it clear that she will once again surpass Fen. Set between the First and Second World Wars, the story is loosely based on events in the life of Margaret Mead. There are fascinating looks into other cultures and how they are studied, and the sacrifices and dangers that go along with it. This is a powerful story, at once gritty, sensuous, and captivating. --Elizabeth Dickie
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (June 3, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802122558
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802122551
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,297 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #44,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Although the jacket will tell you that this book is inspired by the story of real people, leave that aside while you are reading. For King's novel is enthralling in its own terms, both about the early days of anthropological study in the 1930s, and as a hot-blooded tale about inspiration, rivalry, and desire. The setting in New Guinea. Australian ethnographer Schyler Fenwick and his wife Nell Stone have just come downriver after an unproductive stay with a tribe known as the Mumbanyo. At least it was unproductive for her; Fen, as he is called, would have liked to stay, but Nell is the decision-maker of the two, having just published a best-seller that has eclipsed her husband's dry academic monograph. They run into an English anthropologist called Andrew Bankson, the book's main narrator. He is lonely after spending two years with a tribe on the Sepik River, and urges Nell and Fen to transfer their study to another tribe a few hours away from him by boat, known as the Tam.

Although he tries to keep his distance, it is clear that Andrew has fallen for Nell, and she finds she can have conversations with him that she cannot with her husband. But the triangle of desire does not play out as simply as that. The Tam (and Andrew's tribe, the Kiona) appear to have different customs from most of their neighbors, with some striking reversals of the normal gender roles. Separately and together, the three scientists make important discoveries, including the sketch of a quasi-Cartesian classification system that could lead to a Unified Theory of Anthropology. But they are also aware of the biases brought by their own personalities; Andrew wonders at one point whether an anthropologist's field report says more about the people being studied or the author doing the writing.
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Format: Hardcover
No, "Euphoria" isn't a new perfume by Calvin Klein but the name Nell Stone, gives to that ecstatic feeling of discovery: "It's that moment," she rhapsodizes to fellow anthropologist, Andrew Bankson, "about two months in, when you think you've finally got a handle on the place. Suddenly it feels within your grasp. It's a delusion—you've only been there eight weeks—and it's followed by the complete despair of ever understanding anything. But at that moment the place feels entirely yours. It's the briefest, purest euphoria."

Euphoria by Lily King is a historical novel set in 1930s that tracks the aftermath of a chance meeting between three anthropologists: Nell Stone, an American; her Aussie husband Schuyler Fenwick (Fen); and Andrew Bankson, a Brit. The three are studying various tribes who live along the riverbanks of the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea. When the anthropologists first come together at a Christmas party at a local government station, all three of them seem to be at the lowest points in their lives. After just a few months embedded with the Mumbanyo tribe, Nell and Fen have decided to pull up stakes and head back to New York and regroup. They seem to fear for their lives as they beat their hasty retreat on a canoe. A specter of violence hangs in the air. Their actual transgressions or fears aren't clear but what is obvious is that they are demoralized by their failure. Meanwhile, Andrew has just been rescued from the river after a botched suicide attempt (rocks in his coat pocket a la Virginia Woolf). He is depressed and lonely, haunted by the memories of his brothers who died in the Great War, and by the disappointment of his mother, who disparages his work and hardly considers anthropology a science or worthy of study.
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By E. Smiley on September 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover
I inhaled this book in the space of less than 24 hours: fast reading for me even though it's only 257 pages. Set in remote Papau New Guinea in the 1930s, this is a fictionalized account of the brief collaboration of three real-life anthropologists: Margaret Mead, her then-husband Reo Fortune, and her future husband Gregory Bateson. Here they are renamed Nell Stone, Schuyler Fenwick and Andrew Bankson, respectively.

It is a fascinating tale of human relationships and anthropology; unusually for fiction, the author makes the characters' work a major aspect of the book rather than a background detail or subplot, and questions about anthropology are front and center: How involved ought scientists become in the lives of their subjects? Can anthropologists truly be objective, or do they project their own desires or prejudices onto the societies they study? What methods are acceptable for gaining information about a culture? By necessity, the three protagonists are intensely involved in their work, and one of the book's most animated scenes involves Nell's receiving a colleague's manuscript (a fictional analogue of Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture) in the mail, and the three spending all night reading and arguing about it. (That doesn't mean the novel is dry, but that the author does an excellent job of showing the power of ideas and intellectual growth.)

But it soon becomes clear that the three approach their field from very different perspectives. Nell, already famous for a ground-breaking book based on a prior expedition, wants to fall in love with local cultures and erects no boundaries between herself and the people she studies. Fen seems drawn to fieldwork primarily to escape strictures of "civilized" behavior, and to be the most important man in town.
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