elle readers’ prize: july 2014
I had a pleasant surprise this spring when I was contacted to join a fiction panel for Elle magazine’s readers’ panel; I had only done non-fiction reviews up to this point. The books that we read were quite varied, covering stories about early 20th-century anthropologists in Africa, a musician touring Europe, and a pair of brothers living in present-day New York.
My own rankings mirrored the selections of my fellow readers — Lily King’s Euphoria was certainly the best-written book of the three. (The Snow Queen, which came in last place, was a big disappointment from the author of The Hours; his central conceit of a vision in Central Park really did not make any sense in relation to the rest of the book.)
The one downside to Ms. King’s novel is that it is based on the anthropologist Margaret Mead. While I knew this going in, it wasn’t until after I’d submitted my votes that I found how similar the novel was to her life — from the love trapezoid that enmeshes the characters to the discoveries the three main characters make and publish. It sadly colored my whole experience of the book and, while it still is a good read, does not rate as highly with me as it did before I’d learned more about Ms. Mead.