Set in the jungles of Papua New Guinea during the early 1930’s, Lily King attempts to fictionalize the life of anthropologist Margaret Mead through the character of American Nell Stone.
The parallel of Nell Stone’s relationships with her husband Fen, and eventual lover Andrew Bankson are drawn in comparison to the tribes they are studying.
“I asked her if she believed you could ever truly understand another culture. I told her the longer I stayed, the more asinine the attempt seemed…”
The larger questions of objectivity, given what we know (or don’t know) about ourselves, become a canvas that author Lily King paints this narrative upon.
King is clearly a gifted author, and I appreciated her subtle connections between our world and the PNG tribes. But at the same time, this book fell short with me. The life and studies of Nell Stone seemed far less interesting than Margaret Mead’s actual life, and that was disappointing. In truth, there was much about this novel that should have captured my interest, but for some reason I found it a little on the boring side.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2014