By Lily King
(Atlantic Monthly Press, Hardcover, 9780802122551, June 2014, 368pp.)
The Short of It:
A somewhat entertaining romp through New Guinea that happens to include a love triangle!
The Rest of It:
I had no idea that this book was loosely based on Margaret Mead’s life until I was a few chapters in. Lately, I find myself going into a book blind so I can avoid everyone’s opinions on it but I think in this case I would have read a little more closely had I known about Mead being a basis for the story.
Regardless, I found the book to be quite entertaining.
Bankson, a scientist, fails miserably at killing himself so when he encounters Nell and her husband Fen, also scientists he finds himself slightly obsessed with Nell even though she is obviously married to Fen and promises to find them a tribe to study. Mostly, this is due to his need to keep her around and not so much out of scientific curiosity. Nell is fiercely independent and somewhat aware of Bankson’s attraction to her so there is quite a bit of sexual tension throughout the book. Oddly enough, Fen enjoys having Bankson around as a distraction because Fen and Nell definitely have their moments.
Anthropologically speaking, I think the book needed a little more adventure and a little less romantic tension but that’s just me. I know Mead’s work and attitude toward sex is what shaped the sexual revolution of the 60’s but the book read more like a novel to me than historical fiction. I suppose I wanted a bit more of the history of things.
It was an enjoyable read and well-written but it felt a tad unbalanced to me. Have you read it? What did you think of it?
Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Net Galley.
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