Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel / My rating: ★★★★★

One sentence summary: An actor playing Shakespeare’s King Lear dies on stage, a flu wipes out most of the world’s population, the Traveling Symphony performs to those left, and everyone is afraid of the prophet.

I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.

Genre: Contemporary/Post-Apocalyptic

Plot: This post-apocalyptic book was engaging from the start. A pandemic called the Georgian Flu decimates most of the world’s population, and the story alternates between before the flu and after in a messy, brilliantly knotted timeline. The story is warm and chilling, bleak yet hopeful, and is never dull, slow, or, predictable. It is not action packed, but always moving. In a strange way it felt normal, as if, if the world really were to end, this is how it could pan out- which was refreshing when I’ve consumed so many stories that follow the dystopian and post-apocalyptic veins of The Hunger Games, The Road, and The Walking Dead. It left me with a tentatively hopeful afterglow.

Characters: We follow the stories of the survivors and victims whose lives are uniquely linked to the celebrity actor Arthur Leander, who died the night the flu broke out while performing Kind Lear on stage. It’s an intricate web of personalities, and each one gripped me in a different way. The story is told through multiple points of views, and one of my favorite elements of the narrative is that we are able to see the way the characters grudge each other, and how they revere each other. How they remember, and how the survivors are not warriors. I particularly thought Kirsten, the central post-flu character, was brilliant in her character and in her role to the plot, hardened and soft. My other two favorites were August and Clark.

Writing: It took some time for me to find the brilliance of the writing. I’d seen a review that said it was poetic, which I didn’t find apparent at first, but, as I read deeper, began to think yes, yes, this is poetry. I loved it.

Was I satisfied? Yes. I haven’t read a ton of post-apocalyptic fiction, but enough that I found Station Eleven to be a refreshing, thought provoking, and engaging read.

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