In Euphoria, the novelist Lily King has taken the known details of that occasion—a 1933 field trip to the Sepik River, in New Guinea, during which Mead and her second husband, Reo Fortune, briefly collaborated with the man who would become her third husband, the English anthropologist Gregory Bateson—and blended them into a story of her own devising. The result is as uncanny as it is transporting. 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 menace—a love triangle in extremis.
Emily Eakin - New York Times Book Review
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.... There are so many exhilarating elements to savor... 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.... 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
(Starred review.) While the love triangle sections do turn pages..., King’s immersive prose takes center stage. The fascinating descriptions of tribal customs and rituals, paired with snippets of Nell’s journals—as well as the characters' insatiable appetites for scientific discovery—all contribute to a thrilling read that, at its end, does indeed feel like "the briefest, purest euphoria."
(Starred review.) [The] 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. —Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC
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
(Starred review.)[C]learly based on anthropologist Margaret Mead's relationship with her second and third husbands, R. F. Fortune and Gregory Bateson—neither a slouch in his own right.... King does not shy from showing the uncomfortable relationship among all three anthropologists and those they study.... A small gem, disturbing and haunting.
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