Book Review 1: “Station Eleven”


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Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel

Genre: Fiction

Have in the Library? Yes!

Station Eleven  begins when actor Arthur Leander collapses on stage during a production of King Lear in Toronto. As Jeevan, a medic in the audience, rushes to his aid, no one suspects that this is the last night before “the Collapse,” and that the world is about to be wiped out by a terrifying virus called the Georgia Flu. What follows is the story of the aftermath.

I loved everything about this book: the satisfying way the characters intertwine, the fast paced plot, but most of all Mandel’s writing. It dazzles, creating the sense of a glittering world that is familiar but also wondrous. This passage, for example, read like poetry:

No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights, no more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail…No more flight. No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows, points of glimmering light. No more looking down from thirty thousand feet and imagining the lives lit up by those lights at that moment.

As someone who is not normally a fan of post-apocalyptic settings, what drew me in was the way in which Mandel rooted her world firmly in real life as we know it now. Indeed much of the book is flashbacks about the time before the Collapse. I got the sense that she was actually not as interested in exploring the horrors of apocalypse as she was in using them to illuminate our present reality. Her writing is filled with nostalgia for the way we live now. In Mandel’s vision, it is art, theater and stories, but also the small things: a snowglobe, a telephone, an electric light, that contribute to, as Dr. Eleven says, “the sweetness of life on earth.”

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