Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Author: Emily St. John Mandel

Rating: ★★★★1/2

Provided Synopsis: One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten’s arm is a line from Star Trek: “Because survival is insufficient.” But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.

Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Review: This book presented me with one of my worst fears: a global pandemic that wipes out 99% of the earth’s population. Those able to survive the Georgian Flu are left in an entirely new world, as civilization as we know it has collapsed and the individual must define what it means to be human.

Elegant is the adjective I would use to describe this book. Though it spans numerous years, including stories of life before the collapse, during the demise, and life far after, the book always felt incredibly grounded. Part of this is due to the way it focused in on the life of Arthur Leander; his choices over the course of his life place many of the event’s subsequent tales into motion to create a connection between all of the main characters. In a world where Kirsten wonders “If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?,” there was something so beautiful about this tether that united them all.


3 thoughts on “Review: Station Eleven

  1. Pingback: A Note of Reflection + Top Ten Books of 2015 | cammminbookland

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