Euphoria by Lily King AND The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

euphoria-book-cover-flatEuphoria is the story of three young, gifted anthropologists in 1933 caught in a passionate love triangle that threatens theirs bonds, their careers, and ultimately their lives. English Anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in the Territory of New Guinea with little success. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when he encounters the famous and controversial Nell Stone and her wry, mercurial husband Fen. Bankson is enthralled by the magnetic couple whose eager attentions pull him back from the brink of despair. Set between World War I and II and inspired by events in the life of revolutionary anthropologist Margaret Mead, Euphoria is an enthralling story of passion, possession, exploration and sacrifice from award-winning novelist Lily King. Watch a trailer on King’s website here.

Robin: This book grabbed me for some reason. I think because it was about a topic I always feel interested in – kind of an alternative life I would have lead. I love exploring and to actually go and live in another world, try to understand another people, this always fascinates me. Love story, career story, women’s rights story – I was carried away by the emotions. I only wish the novel had been longer and gone more deeply, as it was a quick read and I was sad when I was finished. Rate: 4.5

Gloria: I loved this book. It took me into another world, filled with exotic people, tribal cultures and of course the lovely ménage à trois relationship between Fen, Nell and Bankson. I loved the detail descriptions of the Sepik River and the settlements. I also like that the job of anthropology was not romanticized to be all fun, glory and discovery. For me a good book is all about the people and their character, and the characters in this book were charming and alluring. I loved the notion of possession and freedom between Nell and Fen. I think Fen represented our bad side and Nell represented our good side, the side that wants to learn to know at the expense of exploitation of course. Bribery of fits and caring were what gave Nell what she wanted, which was to understand both the actions and motivations of tribal behavior. I was also interesting that she had no access to the males of the tribe. I rate this book 5, which I haven’t done in a long time.

The Group: We all really liked the book- great character development, love triangle and history lessons. The advancement of anthropology was nicely and truthfully described, including the science movement of the times. Underlying the apparent plot was lots of symbolism regarding human nature, good and evil, selfishness and more. We also liked how each of the characters gives a different perspective of the natives they study. Fen decidedly wants to “become” one of the natives, Bankson is all about science and proving something to himself, and Nell is completely involved in the power of women. High recommendation all around.


Marriage-cvr-thumbThe Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel’s mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel’s salvation is their maid Adelle’s belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle’s daughter. But Rachel’s life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father’s business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France

Robin: I loved this story. Jewish and Spanish and Love and Family. The characters were so alive to me that I had dreams about them. Hoffman takes the reader through the complex intertwining of family relationships on the island of St. Thomas, starting in 1807. This story is based on the true, fictionalized life of the parents of French Painter Pissarro. Rate: 4.5

The Group: Sorry for the spoiler, because it was nice to NOT find out until the end that this story is based on Pissarro. It is a colorful book, with such great setting descriptions that you not only felt you were there, you wanted to be there. It was interesting how the characters interacted and many of us were moved by the fact that each generation repeated the mistakes of the previous in spite of their intentions to be different. The story was intriguing, although at times so complex one had to work to keep things straight (sorry, but this is the reason I prefer to read the paper copy!) For some it was hard to read about the injustice to women and how it was carried out in the name of “religious” rules and dogma. The story made some think about their own childhood imaginings of a future and how those dreams are not always carried out. High recommendation.


  1. Robin Rice says

    Thanks Marlene, my loyal commenter. These books were great!

  2. Marlene Koons says

    Robin, thanks for posting your book club’s recommendation and special thanks to you and Gloria for personal reviews. As you know I am always on the lookout for good reads so my appreciation!

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