By: Kate Gruetter
If you find yourself absently staring at your bookshelves, a wall, or a Barnes and Noble display, searching for some kind of written masterpiece to fill your time, I recommend turning your gaze to Lily King’s works. Not only do her books span a variety of genres and time periods, but their complex portrayals of relationships between women and men results in an engaging plot with creative character interactions.
The first novel of King’s that I read was Writers and Lovers, a perfect introduction to her writing style and works. This novel explores a struggling author’s writing process amid bankruptcy, a love triangle, and grief following her mother’s sudden death. The protagonist, Casey, endures complicated romantic relationships that keep the book interesting and engaging, but do not dominate the plot or take away from King’s messages about tragedy and intimacy. Casey’s struggles with anxiety and grief continue to add depth throughout the book, rounding out the plot and curating a more in-depth narrative.
Five Tuesdays in Winter is King’s most recent tome, released in 2021. A brief collection of ten short stories, the narratives within Five Tuesdays in Winter center around concepts of romance, coming of age, and complex family relationships. Throughout these stories, there appears a recurring motif: single parents caring for and interacting with their children. Though short, King’s excerpts beautifully and alluringly convey the complexity of human relationships and humanity, making them worth a read.
Euphoria is my favorite of King’s works and the one I would recommend most enthusiastically. Following the dynamics between three anthropologists studying tribes native to New Guinea, the book is a testament to both the power civilization believes it has over nature and the control men believe they have over women. Inspired by the life of Margaret Mead, the book follows Nell Stone and her husband Fen as they travel with an old colleague, Andrew Bankson. Voyaging further into the unpredictable wilderness of New Guinea, Nell and Fen’s marriage is tested as King reveals his obsession with power and control, especially over Nell. As he constantly talks over her and ignores her observations, Fen’s behavior only worsens when the group begins studying the Tam tribe. Fen’s obsession with the tribe’s violent beliefs and rituals grows, and Nell finds herself at a crossroads between the two men and the nature of her work. As each character struggles with their own perceptions, analysis, and tragedies, King masterfully weaves together beautiful imagery with complex interactions to deepen her narrative, ultimately resulting in a novel about the beauty and danger of love, wilderness, and epiphany.
So, the next time you find yourself looking for a profound but quick read, look no further than these three works, or others, from Lily King.