Euphoria by Lily King

euphoriaIn my world Euphoria by Lily King has become known as the book that almost ruined Christmas. And just to be clear, that is a statement of high praise. Euphoria was so good I almost had to forgo speaking to my family, who I’d flown across the Atlantic to visit, until I had finished reading it. Every time someone attempted to talk to me I got nasty. It wasn’t pretty.

Euphoria is set in Papua New Guinea in the 1930s. To a large extent it is a fictionalization of the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead. Now I know that may not draw everybody in, but for me it is like brain candy. I have a think for early anthropology and this scratched all those itches.

But beyond that, I think the thing that really kept me going with Euphoria was the delicate power relations between a couple where the woman was considerably more talented and well-known that the man. Through exploring this dynamic, King has crafted a story of love, intrigue, manipulation and discovery. It was a serious page turner that forced me to snub my family.

Who would like this book? This is an obvious no brainer for those who enjoy a story with an anthropological bent. I would also highly recommend it to anyone who like Savage Harvest, which is true account of an anthropological excursion to Papua New Guinea. And it should be noted that both Euphoria and Savage Harvest were two of my favorite books of 2014.


  1. This book keeps surfacing in my sights, I may have to add it to that endless list. I graduated with a degree in Anthropology in 1983 and even then, Margaret Mead was unquestionable. But as with so much classic anthropological the background stories were strange, even tragic for the researchers and their subjects.

  2. I can totally see this causing problems around the holidays. I try to choose my reading wisely near the end of December. I’m glad to hear you loved it, though! I think I need to go check out Savage Harvest…

  3. I love the opening of this post! The Miniaturist was like that for me over the holidays. I almost skipped out of a New Years party to read. But I, too, thought Euphoria was absolutely wonderful. Great point on the dynamic of the power struggle between the couple.

  4. I’m more into botanical exploration than anthropology of the time period, but the relationship interests me. I’ve noticed that a lot of botanical explorers in the first half of the 20th century brought along their wives — the guy gets all the credit, though. It would be interesting to read about a couple where that wasn’t the dynamic.

  5. I really enjoyed the post. As i was reading it I didnt realise my partner was reading it over my shoulder till she commebted that their relationship is ‘exactly the same as ours!’ – so at least am clear where she thinks the talent lies in our house!

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