This compelling novel does what few do these days—it discusses subjects and ideas with intelligence and feeling. In this case the primary subject is the new field of anthropology presented through the viewpoints of three field scientists in the 1930s. It’s based upon the real lives of Margaret Mead, Reo Fortune, and Gregory Bateson although the novel’s ending veers far from the historical record.
What a captivating novel this is--set in exotic Papua New Guinea, where hundreds of native tribes lived, speaking different languages with vastly different cultures and customs.
It hooked me right away. Was that a baby, the Mumbanyo just threw in the water? Nell, the character based upon Margaret Mead, couldn’t see because her husband had broken her glasses. When she and Fen (based upon Mead’s second husband, Reo Fortune) arrive back in civilization (of a sort), her eyes are malarial and she has welts over her body as well as bruises on her ankle. Two English ladies express shock at her appearance as they guzzle liquor on the boat.