“What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty.”Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel
I recently received “Station Eleven” from The Willoughby Book Club, having not read anything by author Emily St John Mandel before. Published in 2014, the story begins with a deadly flu virus sweeping across the globe, taking most of the world’s population in a matter of days.
The day the flu arrives in Toronto, famous actor Arthur Leander dies of a heart attack on stage while playing King Lear, witnessed by child actress Kirsten. Jumping forward 20 years, we join Kirsten as part of the Travelling Symphony – a nomadic group of actors and musicians who move between settlements performing music and Shakespeare for the pandemic survivors.
“Survival is insufficient.”Station Eleven, by Emily St John Mandel
The story follows its main characters moving back and forth to several time periods, including Arthur; his first wife Miranda, author of the ‘Station Eleven’ graphic novels; his second wife and child Elizabeth and Tyler; paparazzo-turned-paramedic Jeevan; and his oldest friend Clark.
While I was initially unsure I’d fully enjoy this book given the events of the past 18 months, I have always liked a dystopian theme, and the plot quickly drew me in and I very much enjoyed reading it. As mentioned, the book moves between time periods, following the characters both in the run up to, and aftermath of the disaster. I found this particularly effective, and I thought the author was very clever about the order in which she revealed the different parts of the story. The characters don’t so much converge at the end of the book as swirl around each other; sometimes coming closer and sometimes drifting away. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an engrossing, thought-provoking read with some great engaging characters (and a nice Star Trek quote!). I will certainly be looking up the rest of the author’s novels!