I wasn't expecting to like this book as much as I did, but it's certainly on my list for best books of this year. It tells the story of three anthropologists in 1930-a time when anthropology was an emerging field and the greats (Boas, etc.) were establishing their reputations and laying claims to their areas of expertise. Inspired by the life and work of Margaret Mead, it follows the newly famous Nell Stone, her husband Fen, and an acquaintance turned friend, Andrew Bankson. The three have been working in the territory of New Guinea, studying tribes and immersing themselves in the culture while feverishly recording their ethnographies. Bankson, having botched his own suicide and at a plateau with his work, happens upon Nell and Fen, freshly traumatized from their time with a bloodthirsty tribe, and introduces them to a new tribe in the hopes of keeping them close. Bankson craves company- and soon the trio are entwined, both professionally and emotionally. As tensions grow and break, Bankson realizes that the jungle holds more than just the mysteries of the native tribes, but also the complicated truths of his own choices and the precarious future of all three anthropologists.
If you're going to read just a few books this year, make sure this one is on your list. I waited forever to borrow it from the library (for brand new titles, I'm often on the holds list for over a month) and flew through it in just two afternoons. At first, I wasn't completely drawn in, but by the time I hit the middle, I couldn't put it down and was reacting out loud to every big moment in the story. Anthropology is an area of interest to me (I think it comes with the territory of being a psychology student) and the background knowledge on ethnographical studies and the founding fathers of the field were really useful while reading. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this book transported me straight to the setting, and I felt every moment of heartbreak alongside the characters. At less than 300 pages, it's especially good for readers who avoid the typical summer-reading tomes. I can't rave enough about it.
Bottom Line Rating: 5/5
Author: Lily King
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2014
Price: $15.81 on Amazon
Source: Public Library
Book #31 of 2014