Getting back into the swing of things each week is hard. So is finding the quiet time to write a review over the weekend. In order to ease out of the weekend, I’ve decided to begin my blogging week with a mini review.
In the 12th grade I was assigned The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I hated it. What I remember about that novel today are extreme boredom and endless travel down an African river. Until I read State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, I attributed my feelings to Conrad and his writing style. While listening to Patchett’s novel, however, I came to realize that I didn’t care for novels dealing with the exploration and exploitation of isolated areas and tribes. Imagine my surprise (and I admit initial dismay) when I picked up this audiobook without reading the description and started listening because of the narrators. Let no one ever say that audiobook lovers aren’t an adventurous lot.
Euphoria tells the story of Nell Stone, an accomplished American anthropologist in New Guinea with Finn, her less accomplished Australian anthropologist husband, and Andrew Bankson, an English anthropologist hiding from his life. Nell and Finn have just fled an angry tribe when they meet up with Bankson. They are ill and Nell has a broken ankle. Bankson is physically whole and healthy, but he is not a well man himself. Unlike other novels dealing with similar subject, what transpires after these three anthropologists meet kept me fascinated throughout. Euphoria was a journey to experience.
As long time fans of both Simon Vance and Xe Sands, there was no doubt in my mind that I would listen to Euphoria, their first audiobook collaboration. I thought willfully jumping into the unknown might have been a mistake, however, as soon as I understood this book was about anthropologists in New Guinea. My apprehension was quickly laid to rest. Not only was the story itself fast paced and fascinating, both narrators were well suited for their characters and gave excellent performances. Xe Sands has a gift for portraying smart, talented women with hidden vulnerabilities. It was as if Sands struggled along with Nell as she tried desperately to control what happened when her work and her marriage collided. The haunted Bankson couldn’t have been narrated any better than by Simon Vance. While it may have been Vance’s vocal range that attracted me to his work, it was his emotional range that impressed me here. There was much more complexity to Bankson’s character than I had expected of a solitary bachelor anthropologist. Both Vance and Sands impressed me with the way they brought their characters to life. Better yet, their styles complemented each other and the novel as a whole. My excitement over this collaboration was well deserved.
Euphoria was for me all that State of Wonder promised to be. I highly recommend this audiobook, which is nominated for a 2015 Audie Award, and plan on checking out Lily King’s backlist.