Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The starting premise of this novel is familiar – a new strain of flu wipes out 99% of the population, and the few survivors struggle on in a harsh and unforgiving new world. But the author has created an extraordinary novel with subtlety and surprise.
Station Eleven skips back and forth in time from before the flu struck, to Year Twenty, when the worst is over and there is some semblance of safety within small community groups. The man who links them all together, Arthur Leander, a famous actor, dies on stage performing King Lear just as the flu is taking hold. A child actor who watches him die is one of the survivors and joins a band of like-minded actors and musicians who become the Travelling Symphony, performing Shakespeare in the post-pandemic world. Their slogan, taken from Star Trek, is ‘survival is insufficient.’ Twenty years on the travelling team think the world is much safer than the early years – until they meet the self-proclaimed ‘Prophet.’
There are many characters in this expertly crafted book, and as the links between them become apparent, it builds cumulative power. The characters are appealing, and the book is packed with humanity, memory and life. It experts weaves past and present, life and death, art and people’s search for meaning. A wonderful book that is inventive, thought-provoking, tender and beautiful, that makes you appreciate life as we know it.