Inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is the story of three young, gifted anthropologists of the 1930s caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens their bonds, their careers, and, ultimately, their lives.
This novel, despite the anthropology backdrop, was colorless and dreary. The cultures and people, which were the basis of their research, were simply a backdrop for the complicated tangled mess that was Fen, Nell and Bankson. Which is unfortunate because the culture of the New Guinea people was rich and interesting, removed from western culture and untainted by society. This allowed them freedom in their rituals and behaviours away from the prying eyes of the oppressive customs of western civilization.
I would have liked to see the relationship between Nell and the people of Lake Tam develop more than her relationship with Bankson. Honestly, the web of unsaid things between these three anthropologists was as tedious as some of their research. Yet it was only in animated discussions of their research that they, as a group, came alive to me. To be perfectly honest none of the characters are all that compelling.
Fen was slippery, dark and untamed, unappreciative of his wife and dismissive of her research, the pinnacle of male misogyny and greed. Nell was caring and loving, giving herself easily to the people of Lake Tam. Her research was about understanding cultures and people, and she was the only compelling character. Bankson was boring, plain and simple. His research had come to a screeching halt before the arrival of Nell and Fen, but even with their influence you get the sense that his research is aimless and unfocused. And he himself embodies these characteristics. The characters were overshadowed by the setting and paled in comparison to the intricacies of the cultures of the people of Papua, New Guinea, which they sought to emerge themselves in.
Despite the culturally rich setting the book was very much limited to half-developed characters and half-formed ideas. The ending, which I had the sense could not end any other way than tragically, was anti-climatic in that even in grief I remained unattached to the characters.