EUPHORIA

Lily King

A story of three young, gifted anthropologists in 1933 caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and ultimately their lives

English Anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in the Territory of New Guinea with little success. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when he encounters the famous and controversial Nell Stone and her wry, mercurial husband Fen. Bankson is enthralled by the magnetic couple whose eager attentions pull him back from the brink of despair.

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A story of three young, gifted anthropologists in 1933 caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and ultimately their lives

English Anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in the Territory of New Guinea with little success. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when he encounters the famous and controversial Nell Stone and her wry, mercurial husband Fen. Bankson is enthralled by the magnetic couple whose eager attentions pull him back from the brink of despair. Set between World War I and II and inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is an enthralling story of passion, possession, exploration and sacrifice from award-winning novelist Lily King.

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  • Grove Press
  • Paperback
  • April 2015
  • 288 Pages
  • 9780802123701

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About Lily King

Lily King is the author of The Pleasing Hour, The English Teacher, and Father of the Rain. She is winner of the Kirkus Prize, two time winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction and a NYTBR Top Ten Book of the year author. She lives with her family in Maine.

Author Website

Praise

New York Times Bestseller
Winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction

Winner of the Kirkus Prize
A Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

A Best Book of the Year for:
New York Times Book Review, Time, NPR, Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, Newsday, Vogue, New York Magazine, Seattle Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, The Guardian, Kirkus Reviews, Amazon, Publishers Weekly, Our Man in Boston, Oprah.com, Salon

A meticulously researched homage to [Margaret] Mead’s restless mind… taut, witty, fiercely intelligent … The steam the book emits is as much intellectual as erotic.”New York Times Book Review (cover review)

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.—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… to delight in King’s novel.”—San Francisco Chronicle

Masterful… riveting and provocative…absolutely first-rate.”—Seattle Times

Discussion Questions

1. Set against the lush tropical landscape of 1930s New Guinea, this novel charts British anthropologist Andrew Bankson’s fascination for colleagues Nell Stone and her husband, Fen, a fascination that turns deadly. How far does the setting play a role in shaping events? Is there a sense that the three have created their own small universe on the banks of the Sepik River, far removed from the Western world? If so, by whose rules are they playing?

2. Over the course of the novel we learn a great deal about Bankson’s childhood and young adulthood. Talk about the reasons and life events that brought him to anthropology. What has led him to the brink of suicide? How seriously do you think he views his statement: “The meaning of life is the quest to understand the structure and order of the natural world—that was the mantra I was raised on. To deviate from it was suicide” (p. 32).

3. How far would you consider Nell to be the epitome of a young, independent accomplished woman? Talk about her character, her personality, work habits and motivations. Then discuss her disturbing relationship with Fen, and her inability to escape his harm. How did she end up in such an untenable situation?

4. What do the three of them really see in the tribes of New Guinea? To what extent, when unlocking the puzzles of the Kiona and the Tam, are they searching for meaning within themselves? How important is it to impending events that the Tam tribe appears to be female-dominated?

5. For all of Nell and Bankson’s heartfelt conversations, and Bankson’s keen observations of her at work, there are many important things left unsaid. Nell states: “You don’t realize how language actually interferes with communication … how it gets in the way like an overdominant sense” (p. 79). Should Bankson have understood further Nell’s sadness within her marriage, Fen’s physical abuse? As a reader, do we miss the clues too?