How to Deal with Sensitive Topics, Lily King

One of my favorite things, from the beginnings of the novel Euphoria was how well I thought that Lily King dealt with very sensitive issues. I was amazed how well she described minor interactions, ones that can be very gendered specific and not unusual. She was not heavy handed, and I was really impressed with her descriptions of suicide in the beginning of the novel.

For example,
Bankson’s brothers both died; Martin committed suicide. Bankson describes Martin as very funny and not a serious person. He states,

Why had Martin been so serious about that one thing? Couldn’t he have been serious about something else?

This sentence deftly deals with a lot of the anger that the family’s of suicide victims feel. He was angry, he didn’t understand, yet Lily King describes this feeling in a darkly comedic fashion. Further, the narrator states,

If the war had not interrupted his trajectory, he would have most likely gone on to become the fourth Bankson to be a Cambridge don. John would have placated Father, and Martin would have been at liberty to follow his fancies.

This statement shows the reach of John’s death in war. Perhaps he would have gone on to be a scientist, and Martin could have done what he wanted and perhaps he would have never committed suicide. King shows how war is so disruptive to families, how death is so disruptive in ways that we cannot predict or imagine.

Additionally, the first sex scene between Nell and Fen is truly brutal. It is described as so,

‘Stick it in,’ Fen said. ‘Stick it in right now.’

There was no reasoning with him, no speaking of dryness or timing or oncoming fevers or lesions that would open when rubbed against the linen sheets. They would leave bloody stains and the Taway maids would think it was menstrual blood and have to burn them for superstitious reason, these beautiful fresh clean sheets.

She stuck it in.

It is a painful section to read. We can read between the lines at the quiet pain that Nell must have been going through, especially at the later descriptions of her sickly state. I like that Lily King describes such an uncomfortable sex scene, something which is probably common, yet not talked about often. It is this pressure that Nell feels, that is practically indescribable, but the reader can feel it as we read this passage.

Well done, Lily King!


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