Station Eleven – Emily St John Mandel

An apocalyptic novel like no other, because survival is insufficient. 

Beautifully set against the eerie backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world in the Year 20, the story follows a travelling symphony who perform Shakespeare in the newly made towns across America.

Despite the obvious chaos that comes with an apocalypse, the scenery is described carefully and delicately throughout. Probably because there are no zombies in this novel, just a disease called the Georgian Flu that wipes out a mass amount of the population. Which I think makes it so refreshing and different. There isn’t a focus on gore or killing zombies, the focus is primarily on how to do more than just survive in a world like this. A world that Emily St John Mandel describes as so:

No more diving into pools of chlorinated water.

No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights.

No more trains running under the surface of cities.

No more cities …

And there isn’t too much focus on the flu or the devastation itself, Mandel gives us enough information but lets us understand the new world through the eyes of the fascinating characters.

The story follows different characters as it switches between different times. Kristen was only 8 when the Georgian Flu hit so doesn’t remember but deeply misses all the things from the old world, such as the blue light from a computer screen. She is part of the travelling symphony and has been since the start. Also Arthur, a melodramatic actor with three ex-wives, who is extremely lonely. Much of the story and other characters revolve around him pre-apocalypse. Jeevan, a paparazzo turned paramedic who we follow at the start of the novel. Miranda, one of Arthur’s ex-wives who creates beautiful but private comic books as an escapism to her tiresome life (definitely my favourite character). Clark, Arthur’s best friend who we follow both pre and post apocalypse.

Switching back or forth between the present day, Year 20 and pre-apocalypse creates an amazing contrast. It adds to the feeling of loss, especially for those characters that were too young to remember the world before the disease, such as Kristen.

This is more than a book about an apocalypse. It is a story of hope, safety and finding home again after losing everything. If you need a book to give you hope, read this.

About the author: Emily St John Mandel

  • Born in 1979 in Comox, British Columbia, Canada.
  • She has four published books: Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, The Lola Quartet and Station Eleven.
  • She has written an essay about books with “girl” in the title called The Gone Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on the Train and how problematic they can be.
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