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Euphoria Paperback – April 14, 2015
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Winner of the 2014 New England Book Award for Fiction
A Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2014; TIME Top 10 Fiction Books of 2014; New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books of 2014; NPR Best Books of 2014; Entertainment Weekly’s 10 Best Fiction Books of 2014; Washington Post Top 50 Fiction Books of 2014; Kirkus Best of 2014; Amazon 100 Best of 2014 #16; Publishers Weekly Best Fiction Books of 2014; Our Man in Boston’s Best of 2014; Oprah.com 15 Must Reads of 2014; Buzzfeed 32 Most Beautiful Book Covers of 2014; A Vogue Top 10 Book of 2014; A New York magazine Best Book of the Year; Seattle Times Top Books of 2014; San Francisco Chronicle Top 10 Books of 2014
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 menacea love triangle in extremis The steam the book emits is as much intellectual as erotic and King’s signal achievement may be to have created satisfying drama out of a quest for interpretive insight King is brilliant on the moral contradictions that propelled anthropological encounters with remote tribes In King’s exquisite book, desirefor knowledge, fame, another personis only fleetingly rewarded.”Emily Eakin, New York Times Book Review (cover review)
"It’s refreshing to see the world’s most famous anthropologist brought down to human scale and placed at the center of this svelte new book by Lily King. Euphoria” is King’s first work of historical fiction. For this dramatic new venture, she retains all the fine qualities that made her three previous novels insightful and absorbing, but now she’s working on top of a vast body of scholarly work and public knowledge. And yet Euphoria” is also clearly the result of ferocious restraint; King has resisted the temptation to lard her book with the fruits of her research. Poetic in its compression and efficiency, Euphoria” presumes some familiarity with Mead’s biography for context and background, and yet it also deviates from that history in promiscuous ways...King keeps the novel focused tightly on her three scientists, which makes the glimpses we catch of their New Guinea subjects all the more arresting...Although King has always written coolly about intense emotions, here she captures the amber of one man’s exquisite longing for a woman who changed the way we look at ourselves."Ron Charles, Washington Post
"Atmospheric and sensual, with startling images throughout, Euphoria is an intellectually stimulating tour de force."NPR.com
"This novel is as concentrated as orchid food, packing as much narrative power and intellectual energy into its 250 pages as novels triple its size."
Marion Winik, Newsday
Euphoria is at once romantic, exotic, informative, and entertaining.” Reader’s Digest summer reading list)
"It's smart and steamy and like the best historical fiction, it made me want to read about Mead."USA Today's Summer's Hottest Titles
"This year's winner Book I Read In One Sitting Because I happened to Read The First Page...a novel of ideas and also a novel of emotions: the titular one but also envy, hubris, despair, and above all desirehow liberating or scandalous it can be, how linked to intellect, how dictatorial."Kathryn Schulz,New York, Best Books of the Year
King reveals a startlingly vulnerable side to Mead, suggesting an elegant parallel between novelist and archeologist: In scrutinizing the lives of others, we discover ourselves.”Vogue Top 10 Books of 2014
"Enthralling . . . From Conrad to Kingsolver, the misdeeds of Westerners have inspired their own literary subgenre, and in King’s insightful, romantic addition, the work of novelist and anthropologist find resonant parallel: In the beauty and cruelty of others, we discover our own.”Vogue
You need know not one thing about 1930s cultural anthropology, or about the late, controversial anthropologists Margaret Mead and Reo Fortune and Gregory Bateson (Mead’s second and third husbands) to delight in King’s novel. Her superb coup is to have imagined a story loosely founded on the intertwined lives of the three that instantly becomes its own, thrilling saga.”San Francisco Chronicle, Top 10 Books of 2014
"King's superb coup is to have imagined a story loosely founded on the intertwined lives of the above three that instantly becomes its own, thrilling saga - while provoking a detective's curiosity about its sources....King builds an intense, seductive, sexual and intellectual tension among the three: This taut, fraught triangulation is the novel's driving force. There are so many exhilarating elements to savor in Euphoria. It moves fast. It's grit-in-your-teeth sensuous. The New Guinean bush and its peoples - their concerns, their ordeals - confront us with fierce, tangible exactness, with dignity and wit. So do the vagaries of anthropological theories, rivalries, politics. Observations are unfailingly acute, and the book is packed with them....It's a brave, glorious set piece. By the end of Euphoria, this reader sighed with wistful satisfaction, wishing the book would go on. Brava to Lily King."Joan Frank,San Francisco Chronicle
"It’s the rare novel of ideas that devours its readers’ attention. More often, as with Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries or Gravity’s Rainbow, we work our way through these books carefully and with frequent pauses, rather than gulping them down in long, thirsty drafts. It’s not a literary form known for its great romances, either, although of course love and sex play a role in most fictional characters’ lives. Lily King’s Euphoria, a shortish novel based on a period in the life of pioneering anthropologist Margaret Mead, is an exception. At its center is a romantic triangle, and it tells a story that begs to be consumed in one or two luxurious binges...King is a sinewy, disciplined writer who wisely avoids the temptation to evoke the overwhelming physicality of the jungle (the heat, the steam, the bugs) by generating correspondingly lush thickets of language. Her story...sticks close to the interlocking bonds that give the novel its tensile power."Laura Miller, Salon
Lily King has built her reputation as a gifted novelist steadily over three books. Her fourth, Euphoriaa smart, sexy, concise work inspired by anthropologist Margaret Meadshould solidify the critical approval and bring her a host of new readers.”Cleveland Plain Dealer
Among the plethora of mysteries and assorted fiction that flow from Maine, it’s a rare novel that rises to the level of Euphoria...a fascinating, multi-layered character study of people under duress....the writing...sweeps you away....Put Euphoria in your book bag for those trips to the beach. You’ll be glad you did."Portland Herald Press
Masterful...Euphoria begins so deep in the action that the reader is captured on Page 1... a thrilling and beautifully composed novel...A great novelist is like an anthropologist, examining what humans do by habit and custom. King excels in creating vignettes from Nell’s fieldwork as well as from the bitter conversation of the three love-torn collaborators, making the familiar strange and the strange acceptable. This is a riveting and provocative novel, absolutely first-rate."Seattle Times
"Exciting...a wonderfully vivid and perceptive tale...King’s prose sparkles...The upriver experiences of her characters feel thoroughly authentic fascinating, uncomfortable, always dangerous, sometimes even euphoric."Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Splendid...compelling, intelligent...filled with searing shocks...breaks the heart."Tampa Bay Times
Lily King has taken this high-octane collaboration and turned it into an intellectual romance novel the effect is hallucinatory this is a trip of a novel Hot stuff. In every way.”Book Reporter
"A haunting novel of love, ambition, and obsession...unforgettable."AudioFile
"Inspired by an event in the life of Margaret Mead, this novel tells the story of three young anthropologists in 1930s New Guinea...This three-way relationship is complex and involving, but even more fascinating is the depiction of three anthropologists with three entirely diverse ways of studying another culture...These differences, along with professional jealousy and sexual tension, propel the story toward its inevitable conclusion...Recommended for fans of novels about exploration as myth and about cultural clashes, from Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness to Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart."Library Journal (starred review)
"The love lives and expeditions of controversial anthropologists Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson are fictionalized and richly reimagined in New England Book Award winner King’s (Father of the Rain) meaty and entrancing fourth book...King’s immersive prose takes center stage. The fascinating descriptions of tribal customs and rituals, paired with snippets of Nell’s journalsas well as the characters’ insatiable appetites for scientific discoveryall contribute to a thrilling read that, at its end, does indeed feel like 'the briefest, purest euphoria.'"Publishers Weekly(starred review)
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.”Booklist
"Atmospheric...A small gem, disturbing and haunting."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
There are some novels that take you by the hand with their lovely prose alone; there are those that pull you in with sensual renderings of time and place and a compelling story; and there are still others that seduce you solely with their subject matter. But it is a rare novel indeed that does all of the above at once and with complete artistic mastery. Yet this is precisely what Lily King has done in her stunningly passionate and gorgeously written Euphoria. It is simply one of the finest novels I’ve read in years, and it puts Lily King firmly in the top rank of our most accomplished novelists.”
Andre Dubus III
With Euphoria, Lily King gives us a searing and absolutely mesmerizing glimpse into 1930’s New Guinea, a world as savage and fascinating as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, where obsessions rise to a feverish pitch, and three dangerously entangled anthropologists will never be the same again. Jaw-droppingly, heart-stoppingly beautiful. I loved this book.”Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
I have come to expect Lily King’s nuanced explorations of the human heart, but in this novel she pulled me in to the exotic world of a woman anthropologist working with undiscovered tribes in 1930s New Guinea and I was totally captivated. Euphoria is a great book! So great, that I stayed up late to finish it."Karl Marlantes
Writers are childlike in their enthusiasm about other writers’ good work. They’re thinking: How’d they ever think of that? That’s amazing/beautifully written/true! Imagine all the effort that went into pulling this off. Could I do something this original/surprising/moving? I’m always happy to read Lily King, and I particularly enjoyed reading Euphoria.” Ann Beattie
Fresh, brilliantly structured, and fully imagined, this novel radically transforms a story we might have known, as outsidersbut now experience, though Lily King's great gifts, as if we'd lived it.”
Lily King delves into the intellectual flights and passions of three anthropologists as complex, rivalrous and brutal as any of the cultures they study. Euphoria is a brilliantly written book."Alice Greenway
A CBS News "Must-have titles for your summer reading list"; An O, the Oprah Magazine, 10 Titles To Pick Up Now”; A Marie Claire "novel that needs to be in your beach bag"; A USA Today pick for Summer's Hottest Titles"; A National Geographic Ultimate Summer #TripLit Reading List; A Boston Globe Summer Reading Suggestion; A Salon pick for Best Book of the Year (so far); A St. Louis Post Dispatch "Books to carry on the road this summer"; Reader’s Digest Summer Reading List, An Observer (UK) Best holiday reads 2014; An Indie Next Pick for June
About the Author
- Publisher : Grove Press; Reprint edition (April 14, 2015)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 288 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802123708
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802123701
- Item Weight : 11.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #81,664 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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We are first introduced to Mead in a scene of marital rape (by the Reo Fortune character, her first husband), and this pretty much sums up how this author manhandles Mead. Really, it's awful and I am shocked that this novel has not gotten more criticism. Mead's bisexuality and relationship with Ruth Benedict is almost completely erased; the novel takes Mead's queer love life and turns it into a heteronormative love triangle. Most of the novel is about two men fighting each other over Mead. I was in quite a shock by the time I got to the end of this book, so the ending is a bit of an angry blur, but the book ends with Mead dying in childbirth (this didn't happen in real life) and the Bateson character publishing their research as a single-author after Mead's death. Literally, the author kills off Mead before she publishes (in real life) her bestseller "Sex and Temperament." Also, the author's descriptions of anthropological theory are really wonky and (strangely!) don't mention that Mead's actual research was on sexuality, gender, and violence.
All of this is extra troubling because many readers are learning about anthropology, ethnography, and Mead *for the first time* with this book. I can't tell you how many cocktail parties I've been at where I say I'm an anthropologist and then people tell me they only know what that means because they've read this book. This scares me! People think this is Mead and this is anthropology!
Let me say this again: The author takes one of the most prominent female, queer scientists of the last century, then rapes and kills her before she publishes her magnum opus, and then has a man publish the research instead. Horrendous.
As an anthropologist, I beg you please don't read this novel. Mead's real life is far richer than this novel. Read Mead's books instead.
Let’s get the one complaint out of the way (not enough to subtract a star, or even a fraction of a star – actually, I wish I could give this book more than five stars). Sometimes the author hints darkly at an event instead of clearly explaining. She infers. Now, some literary-type readers prefer the subtlety of inferences. I admire those who understand them. I do not consider them posers. I love the ambiguities and possibilities of an unanswered (or unanswerable) question. But, in this instance, and some others, I wish I knew more about what happened before the story opens, especially Fen’s dark past, as part of a huge family, living in isolation in the Australian outback. I’m pretty sure about the type of behaviors that this one, dark hint refers to, but not entirely sure. The resulting twist in Fen’s character, however, is more important than the particular, salacious details of his nefarious family history, and his acceptance and expectation of evil and violence in every civilization steers his actions as an adult anthropologist living with the tribes along the banks of the Sepik River (“flamboyantly serpentine, the Amazon of the South Pacific” – see? Isn’t she brilliant?).
Of the three main characters, Fen is the only one who doesn’t have a narrative voice. The reader only knows him through the first person narration of Andrew Bankson, and the third person limited narration of his wife, Nell Stone (loosely based on the real-life anthropologist Margaret Mead). We only get to hear his voice through dialogue and observe his actions. He’s the least sympathetic character throughout. Although I did not love him as a person, I loved the creation of him, the complexity of his sometimes-evil nature. And, I understood him, although I could never empathize with him. I’ve met him many times, here in the real world. He reminds me of so many men I’ve known well. He’s Australian, but in many ways, like an American man.
So, let’s get on with my love letter to Lily King. I plunged under, into the world she created with her words, and did not care to come up for air, ever. I once had a writing teacher who told us to create a list when we got “stuck”. Here’s the best list I’ve ever read (describing Andrew Bankson’s past): “The house I grew up in there, Hemsley House, had been in the possession of Bankson scientists for three generations, its every desktop, drawer, and wardrobe stuffed with scientist’s remnants: spyglasses, test tubes, finger scales, pocket magnifiers, loupes, compasses, and a brass telescope; boxes of glass slides, and ento pins, geodes, fossils, bones, teeth, petrified wood, framed beetles and butterflies, and thousands of loose insect carcasses that turned to powder upon contact.” A positively Dickensian list, but better, less preposterously wordy and more utilitarian. I wanted to walk through Hemsley House, and touch those things. In a way, I felt like I had.
I could go on and on. I underlined passages and made notations in the margins. I lived inside these pages. There are so many layers, and so many insights and ideas to explore and rethink. I keep going back. After all, anthropology is the study of humans and their lives, their relationships to each other and to their environment, their art, their chronicles. It’s everything. I keep going back to a diagram (a “grid”) that Fen, Andrew and Nell create together, categorizing personalities into the four main directions on a compass. You don’t have to be just North, South, East, or West, though, you can be a Northwest personality, or a Southeast personality. This novel is so complex and so deep. It asks so many beautifully unanswerable questions. Above all, this story leaves the reader with a way to look at, appreciate and observe cultures that are highly civilized, but considered to be primitive and inferior to traditional Western culture. These characters view anthropology through a wide, panoramic lens, a zoom lens, a microscopic lens, and just about any other lens you can think of, including no lens, just immersion. It’s also about how our ideas, like our children, take on a life of their own once they’re launched out into the world. You can take aim, but you have no control after they’re flying free. It’s about how we think and work as individuals and how we work collectively. It’s about everything that’s important in life.
Top reviews from other countries
Nominally this is the story anthropologists in 1930s New Guinea, and while I have no idea if King has accurately represented the period and place, she certainly made it feel real. Most important she made it feel close: close as in warm, and wet, and pressed against the skin. The growing tension between the characters, and the locals, makes it seem easy to pick out good guys and bad guys – but this book isn’t so easy, and if you’re looking for an exploration of the harms we do each other (even those lucky few with fantastic minds do to each other), and in turn how those harms can spread against the best of intentions, this is that. Find yourself somewhere in the sunshine and read this in one go. Then spend the rest of the evening thinking about it.