Recently, I noticed another blogger (Tanya at 52booksorbust.wordpress.com) was recommending Euphoria by Lily King. As I often do, I immediately went online to read more and instantly recognized that this book was completely up my alley (or for those in Philly, completely my jawn).
Euphoria is the fictional story of three anthropologists working in Papua New Guinea in the early 1930s. Much of the story is based on Margaret Mead. Nell and her husband, Fen, have had some recent bad luck studying one tribe when they meet up with English anthropologist, Andrew Bankson on Christmas Eve. Nell and Fen have believed that Bankson “owns” the Sepik River region, but Bankson quickly disavows them of that notion and helps them find a new tribe in the Tam.
Telling the story from different perspectives including diary entries revealed decades later, Euphoria is a quick and compelling read. You learn about the history of the characters, particularly Nell and Bankson, and the inevitable attraction between them. King does an excellent job exploring the nature of their anthropological work and the different challenges and insecurities they each face. Nell is clearly more successful than her husband and that power dynamic leads him to take a dangerous risk, putting the lives and work of all three of them in danger.
I felt the ending wrapped up a little too quickly, but in retrospect, maybe that was fitting for three anthropologists who clearly had difficulty with interpersonal relationships.