Monday, December 15, 2014
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel Book Review
Station Eleven is one of the biggest books of the year in my opinion. I’d heard so much about it but while I quite like dystopian novels (especially YA ones), ones with a post-apocalyptic feel to them don’t really appeal to me that much. However, when I saw the reviews from Sharon from Behind Green Eyes and Rincey from Rincey Reads, I decided I wanted to give it a go. I was waiting forever on the library wait list but luckily Station Eleven was put back up on NetGalley and I got approved quickly and I got stuck in.
This book opens with a production of King Lear in Toronto, where famous actor Arthur Leander collapses on stage from a heart attack. EMT Jeevan rushes to the stage to try help while 8 year old actress Kristen watches with horror to the event unfold. As Jeevan walks home later that night, he gets a call from his doctor friend warning him to leave the city as soon as possible, as the deadly Georgia Flu has hit the city and people are dropping like flies. Jeevan barricades himself in with his brother and wait out the worst of things.
The book then flashes forward to present time, 15 years into the future when 99% of the population has been wiped out, and we are reintroduced to Kristen and the Travelling Symphony, a group of people who travel around putting on plays and music shows. The book the cuts through time, telling stories years before the outbreak (like Arthur’s life, his wives and friends), during the time of the breakout and the immediate years that follow, as well as progressing the story at the present time. I know I only recently said I often wasn’t a huge fan of times switching back and forth but I liked the way this story was told. For the years before the outbreak, the stories are mainly about Arthur and his life, the years during the outbreak we mainly hear from Jeevan and Arthur’s oldest friend and the present years are mainly based with the the Travelling Symphony and the trouble they run into in St. Deborah by the Water and the prophet there. I just LOVED though how we see all the lives interact with each other over the years, the different ways their paths crossed. I thought it really added to the story and I think that’s why I liked the different timelines as it all comes together really well in the end.
I really liked this book, I am glad I gave it a go despite my hesitation with the whole post-apocalypse theme. The author is so vivid with her descriptions. There’s a line at the beginning when Jeevan is on stage trying to revive Arthur ‘The lights changed, the blues and whites of the snowstorm replaced by a fluorescent glare that seemed yellow by comparison. Jeevan worked silently in the margarine light’. I don’t know I loved that, but the margarine light just seemed like such a beautiful description. Mandel also really sets the tone for the post-pandemic world really well, with the descriptions of the TV stations going off air adding an eeriness to the world. And some of the descriptions were just creepy too, especially in the airport setting (I really want to say what it is that made equally love and be creeped out but I don’t want to spoil it. I might put it in my Goodreads review if you’re interested in finding out). I will say if the whole idea of ebola freaks you out and you have an overactive imagination, this might not be the best book for you! Though saying that, the timing of this book and the ebola outbreak really does add to the reality of the book and making you believe that a world like this isn’t really too far fetched. However this book isn’t really a post-apocalyptic novel in the sense it’s the main focus of the story.The book is set in this world and it is a big deal, it just isn’t the main thread of the story. Arthur and his life probably are, as a lot of it spins off from him, as well as the way the characters interact with each other throughout the different timelines. The book really touched me at times, I found myself crying once or twice. I can’t recommend it enough, do pick it up if you get the chance!
I received this book on NetGalley and I am not obliged to write a review if I do not wish. All opinions are my own.