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Book Review: Euphoria, Lily King

Title Euphoria, Lily King
Print Length: 273 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
Rating: 5/5 Stars


Part Romeo and Juliet, part anthropological essay, Lily King's Euphoria tells the story of three anthropologists studying native tribes in New Guinea during the 1930s. Nell Stone, a controversial and famous anthropologist, and her husband Fen are fleeing a cannibalistic tribe when they run into Andrew Bankston, a British anthropologist studying river tribes on his own. Lonely and suicidal, Bankston clings to the intelligent Nell and charismatic Fen, helping them to find a new tribe for their research. Nell and Fen are introduced to the Tam - a female driven, artistic river tribe. Here Nell studies the customs and values of the Tam while Fen, desperate to emerge from beneath the shadow of his famous wife, is focused more on antiquities than anthropological research. Tensions rise between the three anthropologists as Bankston and Nell draw closer to each other and Fen plots to commit an unforgivable crime with deadly consequences. Taut, sensual and beautifully written, this critically acclaimed novel is worthy of all the praise it received.

M Y  T A K E

Lily King's novel, Euphoria, is sensual, riveting and brilliant. It was named book of the year by the New York Times, Vogue, Time and many other publications. This book truly is a stand out - but please allow me to warn you, it's not for everyone. What made this novel work for me was the beautiful language and descriptions of the native people by Nell and Bankston. Together they make the story beautiful, emotional and sensuous. Because this book is so beautifully and hypnotically written I rated it five stars - it is wonderful. Some readers may find this book slow to start, I believe that this is good. It allows for a gradual build up to the climax of the story and gives the reader a better sense of the characters. Fen is brooding and jealous, Bankston hopelessly romantic and Nell pragmatic and methodical. Euphoria is a masterfully crafted story about love, jealousy, science and the beauty that comes with understanding someone other than oneself. I found it to be uncomfortable - an emotion that I feel great literature should evoke from its reader - beautifully written and tragic. This novel isn't for the faint of heart - it is not a beach read or airplane book but it is a wonderful example of modern literature.

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A B O U T  T H E  A U T H O R

Lily King grew up in Massachusetts and received her B.A. in English Literature from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and her M.A. in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She has taught English and Creative Writing at several universities and high schools in this country and abroad.

Lily’s first novel, The Pleasing Hour (1999) won the Barnes and Noble Discover Award and was a New York Times Notable Book and an alternate for the PEN/Hemingway Award. Her second, The English Teacher, was a Publishers Weekly Top Ten Book of the Year, a Chicago Tribune Best Book of the Year, and the winner of the Maine Fiction Award. Her third novel, Father of the Rain (2010), was a New York Times Editors Choice, a Publishers Weekly Best Novel of the Year and winner of both the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Maine Fiction Award. Lily's new novel, Euphoria, was released in June 2014. It has drawn significant acclaim so far, being named an Amazon Book of the Month, on the Indie Next List, and hitting numerous summer reading lists from The Boston Globe to O Magazine and USA Today. Reviewed on the cover of The New York Times, Emily Eakin called Euphoria, “a taut, witty, fiercely intelligent tale of competing egos and desires in a landscape of exotic menace.”

Lily is the recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship and a Whiting Writer's Award. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines including Ploughshares and Glimmer Train, as well as in several anthologies.

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