06 January 2015

Euphoria, by Lily King

I had a similar experience with this book as I do with many highly acclaimed recent novels: I found the story eminently readable, the writing good and occasionally excellent, and yet... I do not feel compelled to run around handing out copies to people I know (the way I do with books like Boy, Snow, Bird, for instance, or An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter). I kind of doubt that I'll think about or even much remember the story a year from now. The plot was interesting -- the story of a love triangle between three young anthropologists studying tribes in the South Pacific -- but King doesn't do as much with the material as she arguably could. Her main focus is the love story, to the extent that everything else seems like backdrop or costume drama. At very least, moments when the three researchers discuss their ideas could have pushed the novel into something deeper. But I also could not help but feel a bit annoyed at the way the novel repeats the very sins of the anthropologists it seemingly critiques, paying lipservice to the devastating effects of their entry into the community, but meanwhile in utter thrall to the drama of their personal lives, leaving the "natives" as mysterious Others to the very end. 

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