Never read anything quite like it. Euphoria was an unexpectedly unique and absorbing experience. Lily King martook me into a world I’d never explored–the personal realm of those early anthropologists such as Margaret Mead and Bronislaw Malinowski as they investigated the primitive tribes they discovered in distant jungles. I read some Mead years ago, but it was always in sociological jargon and I got no taste of the personal from the little I read.
Here we find ourselves in a world where Europeans fought rather savagely with one another to gain access to various tribal territories, rather in the way other Europeans divided up Africa and the middle east.
In some ways, the story is not so unique. We’re between world wars, and the protagonist is part of a rather traditional love triangle. A husband-wife time is investigating a particular tribe. She’s published a book which has received some acclaim. Husband Fen is relatively unpublished and jealous. Narrator Bankson falls in love with wife Nell, and she with him. They don’t act on their attraction, but Fen sees it and resents it, though he needs and wants Bankson around for a number of reasons.
“Fen doesn’t want to study natives. He wants to be a native” says Nell at one point. A comment which illustrates the alienation between husband and wife as well as the situation which seems to provide an opening for the stifled love awaiting consummation. Fen’s attitude and actions lead to a disaster which determines the direction of all three lives, and the triangle has an ending which I certainly didn’t anticipate. It’s a powerful ending, worthy of the power of the narrative which precedes it. It’s my first Lily King but not, I think, my last.