Book Review: Euphoria by Lily King
By Lyn May
I had to warm up to this book a bit, but in the end I liked it well enough. A fictionalized account of anthropologist Margaret Mead’s early field years and her relationships with two of the men in her life, it is a good love story. The Mead character is caught between a husband she thought she loved – though I can’t figure out what she sees in him – and a man who, even deathly ill, is pretty darn charming. I found Ms. King’s ending dramatic but less interesting than what happened to the real people in this triangle. She chose a tidy ending instead of the messy and fascinating lives these three young scientists actually lived. There was an event I thought should have happened to one of the trio that would have been icky but natural under the circumstances, and I wondered why it didn’t.
The unstudied, isolated tribes Mead and her cohorts traveled so many dangerous miles to study never really come to life. They feel one-dimensional like those early black and white movies with the handsome and very clean leading man and woman in the foreground and stock footage of raging natives outside grass huts behind them. I missed a sense of the fear these strangers must have had of each other, and of what it must have been like to live among people so totally unlike you – and to chose to trust them with your life. In the end, I think Margaret Mead’s life was more interesting than the one Lily King created for us.