Book Review, Euphoria

Sooooo I’ve realized that I never actually posted the review about Euphoria despite talking often about it. This review will have spoilers but I’ll remind again when I get to them!

Overall, I was nervous about first picking up this book. It is very popular, and at the beginning it seems without substance. Though I was grabbed, I was not taken away by the beginning of the novel. But then Lily King really gets going. And I felt lost and desperate, truly feeling the fever that the characters themselves experience. Read the book, give it a chance, let me know what you think. I think it is a beautiful celebration of women, a women-centered culture, a woman is highlighted as the main character, a woman author. Euphoria exceeds expectations, (Harry Potter style).

I’m going to start out by describing some negatives that I found throughout the book,

  • At the beginning of the novel, I found the language unremarkable though they would be littered with sentences like,”I came to see that the whole Darwinian story of the fat-beaked finches eating nuts and the thin-beaked finches eating…,” I can just imagine Bankson arriving in the Galapagos, being like what the hell, looking around, does anyone else see this? They’re all eating the same things! Why are you guys all nodding along? Guys!
  • Sometimes I felt like the sentences were not representing of the characters, like when Bankson said, “History hung suspended for months. I took solace in the not knowing,” why?
  • I thought that at first, the characters of Nell, Fen, Bankson and his parents were painted too heavily with the brush of good or evil. Bankson and Nell were good, Fen and Bankson’s parents were evil (“Stalin to his Lenin”)
  • Further I was not convinced (in the beginning) of the attraction between Bankson and Nell, I suffered with the question, is this trite?
  • Spoiler the Fen and Bankson kiss felt pointless to me. Some may disagree, but it seemed like a plot twist that had no real role.

There are a lot more good things than bad, so brace yourself…

  • Lily King beautifully discusses anthropology, the difficulties that the subject goes through
  • I thought she did a great job discussing the heartbreaking nature of these colonies. They were later taken over, their beautiful culture destroyed. It is this great struggle between modernization and colonization. Like, “She wished she could show him a Van Gogh, the self-portraits,” portrays a really complicated line, very deftly.
  • Then the novel, at around 100 pages I would say? really changes, you can truly feel the energy shift and especially when Bankson returns the second time. Hellen’s character, which at once seemed unneccessary, takes a clear role in advancing the characters. I was wrapped up in the details that King unfolded, the way that she wrote that portrayed clearly the academic frenzy the three felt.
  • A great book is able to ask questions, the “why?” without seeming cliche. King was able to do that. She built and built and built until Nell said, “Do you think it’s natural, the desire to possess another person?” And it felt natural.
  • I was completely sold on Bankson and Nell by the end, the writing reflected the changes that Fen also felt when Bankson arrived. He was a life force.
  • King navigated beautifully around Fen’s crime. Where does his real crime come in? How many steps away are Bankson and Nell in fault? Is what they do similar? It is so blurry, so ironically juxtaposed.
  • Spoiler the end is truly heartbreaking. The violence that Nell endured, to her body, because she was a woman, is so terribly sad. This is a beautiful novel about the strength of a woman, the acceptance that come along with the small mistreatments, the resentments. The end does not end hopefully, I was left with an intense feeling of loss. A desperate sense of loss.

I was blown away.

Other great passages:

My father had produced three of those foot soldiers. It was hard to convince him of anything else.

I’m seeing now from this vantage point that all the times he’s hovered over the bed, scolding me, hounding me to get up, it’s been fear, no fury.

He smelled like the West.

Bankson doesn’t like it when the colonists talk about where money comes from.


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