When people hear the name of Margaret Mead,I don't think they necessarily think of the torrid, sexuality of her work and how big a splash it made because of it. It did make that splash though and this novel draws loosely on the 1933 expedition that Mead went on with her then husband and the man that would become her third husband. She then blended those facts into a story of her own creations. I really enjoyed reading this novel in major part because it was a well researched nod to Mead, a woman that the author clearly admired for the work that she engaged in. The love triangle that ensues and the ego competition add layers upon layers to an already lovely story. The tension is palpable from the get go when Nell Stone, the protagonist and author of a book that caused a splash is leaving an aggressive tribe with her Aussie husband (Fen) who is already jealous of Nell. The tribe that they are leaving lobs items at them as they leave, one of which Nell believes is a stillborn baby. Nell's glasses are broken - impliedly at the hand of her husband - as is her ankle. Both are dirty, malnourished and malarial as well as being down in the dumps emotionally and mentally. They encounter Andrew Bankson, an English anthropologist, who they eventually hook up with even though he is down in the dumps too. Bankson has lost both of his brothers and is considered to be a failure by his mother.
The way that King writes about the people, makes it almost as if you're in the bush with them. You can feel the thickness of the air and smell the dankness of unwashed bodies. You can feel the tension that is created when Bankson falls hard for both Nell's body and her sharp mind. I as the reader got uncanny access to the minds of Bankson and Nell Stone through journal entries that Nell writes as well as the narration by Bankson. The introspection is perhaps unparalleled than many other novels. It was a magnificent work that should be read by all.