For the first time all summer, I’m actually ahead on my to-be-read! I just finished up Euphoria and I’m glad I read it. It’s a good book with insightful passages and honestly, a book I probably wouldn’t normally read. I like to challenge myself with narratives outside my norm. I think having no TV helps me push through a book I’m hesitant about. I knew I was having reservations about this story when I started it, so I pushed through the first fifty pages pretty quickly. I’m glad I did because it ended up being a worthwhile read.
Based on anthropologists Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson’s brief time together in Papua New Guinea in 1933, this read is a love-triangle centered novel. This novel follows Nell (Mead) and her husband, Fen (Fortune) who are in New Guinea but are headed to a new study area in Australia when they run into Bateson, who convinces them to stay in the area and study a new tribe there. Bateson, lonely and battling his own demons, is desperate for interactions with them after spending years alone in the jungle. The three become fast friends, working and studying together. However, Fen is a bit more aggressive than it first seems and there is a struggle between Fen and Nell for power in their relationship. Meanwhile, Bateson and Nell share undeniable chemistry, both physical and intellectual.
The writing in this novel is rhythmic, poetic, and well paced. It’s fairly short read, coming in around 250 pages, and I read quickly. Knowing nothing about Mead going into this read, it was fun to watch this story unfold. However, it is important to note this is a fictionalized work, so while it’s based on real people and events, their story doesn’t track the real one exactly. Now that I finished the novel, I plan to read up a bit on the real events just to see what was true and what King took liberties within her writing.
I enjoyed Nell’s character a lot, but I also loved Bateson. Fen, well, I didn’t like him. I liked that Nell was strong, unapologetic in her pursuit of understanding, warm, and so intellectual. I appreciated that what drew people to Nell was her intellect and her instincts. Bateson was likable, funny, warm, and I adored his interactions with Nell. I will say, I expected a bit more sex, but I like that this love-triangle was more about intellect than a physical connection.
There is an unexpected twist at the end. I don’t want to give too much away, so I will just say I didn’t see it coming but also found it so appropriate. I really enjoyed this book. While it wasn’t my favorite book, I’m glad I read it and enjoyed the story. I do recommend it to anyone interested in anthropology, travel, love triangles, and strong women. There are some really beautiful passages in the book that made me pause and absorb! Up next, I’ll be reading Ghosted by Rosie Walsh. I’ve heard it’s the perfect beach, summertime read, which will be great for the beginning of my time in California. I will be sharing my August TBR soon!