Station Eleven Hardcover – 10 Sep 2014
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Glorious, unexpected, superbly written; just try putting it down. (The Times)
Once in a very long while a book becomes a brand new old friend, a story you never knew you always wanted. Station Eleven is that rare find that feels familiar and extraordinary at the same time, expertly weaving together future and present and past, death and life and Shakespeare. This is truly something special. (Erin Morgenstern, author of THE NIGHT CIRCUS)
Visually stunning, dreamily atmospheric and impressively gripping . . . Station Eleven is not so much about apocalypse as about memory and loss, nostalgia and yearning; the effort of art to deepen our fleeting impressions of the world and bolster our solitude. (Guardian)
'Station Eleven is so compelling, so fearlessly imagined, that I wouldn't have put it down for anything. I think this one is really going to go places.' (Ann Patchett, author of BEL CANTO and STATE OF WONDER)
A beautiful and unsettling book, the action moves between the old and new world, drawing connections between the characters and their pasts and showing the sweetness of life as we know it now and the value of friendship, love and art over all the vehicles, screens and remote controls that have been rendered obsolete. Mandel's skill in portraying her post-apocalyptic world makes her fictional creation seem a terrifyingly real possibility. Apocalyptic stories once offered the reader a scary view of an alternative reality and the opportunity, on putting the book down, to look around gratefully at the real world. This is a book to make its reader mourn the life we still lead and the privileges we still enjoy. (Sunday Express)
Station Eleven is a firework of a novel. Elegantly constructed and packed with explosive beauty, it's full of life and humanity and the aftershock of memory. (Lauren Beukes, author of THE SHINING GIRLS)
There is no shortage of post-apocalyptic thrillers on the shelves these days, but Station Eleven is unusually haunting . . . There is an understated, piercing nostalgia . . . there is humour, amid the collapse . . . and there is Mandel's marvellous creation, the Travelling Symphony, travelling from one scattered gathering of humanity to another . . . There is also a satisfyingly circular mystery, as Mandel unveils neatly, satisfyingly, the links between her disparate characters . . . This book will stay with its readers much longer than more run-of-the-mill thrillers. (Alison Flood, Thriller of the Month Observer)
Station Eleven is a magnificent, compulsive novel that cleverly turns the notion of a "kinder, gentler time" on its head. And, oh, the pleasure of falling down the rabbit hole of Mandel's imagination - a dark, shimmering place rich in alarmingly real detail and peopled with such human, such very appealing characters. (Liza Klaussmann, author of TIGERS IN RED WEATHER)
A genuinely unsettling dystopian novel that also allows for moments of great tenderness. Emily St. John Mandel conjures indelible visuals, and her writing is pure elegance. (Patrick deWitt, author of THE SISTERS BROTHERS (shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize))
An ambitious and addictive novel (Sarah Hughes Guardian)
An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame, and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse.See all Product description
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Station Eleven isn't your usual apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic novel: the focus isn't the pandemic itself. The story isn't a linear one and alternates, without any obvious logic at first, between moments before the pandemic, during the pandemic or after it. The reader realises quite quickly that the focus actually is the characters and the consequences of the pandemic on them. There's no epic tale of survival, but tales of self-discovery and how to find your place in this world.
I have really loved the style: it's beautiful written, sometimes very striking, and Emily St John Mandel varies her narrative choices. Some readers may dislike the absence of linearity: clearly, it's not Flood by Baxter, and it can be frustrating to lose the storyline of one character without knowing if St John Mandel will go back to him or her. But this absence of linearity is actually what makes the beauty of the story: the characters' fate and their choices are examined under an unexpected angle. In a linear story, you wouldn't have felt a single shred of pity for some of them, but with this storytelling choice, they suddenly appear in a completely different light.
The story doesn't really bring anything new to the apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic genre, but it is gripping and sometimes very touching.
It is a remarkably beautiful and emotional novel that left me speechless for a few minutes after having finished it.
We have the years after the singular event that causes the post-apocalyptic dystopia that we read of, but we also have before then and not only the events that led up to the massive flu pandemic, Georgia Flu here, but people who are in one way or another circling the actor, Arthur Leander. As we read this we see how important this character is, although he spectacularly dies on stage near the beginning of this, whilst playing King Lear.
Of course, it is unlikely that a pandemic would kill so many people throughout the world in so quick a period, and there is missing some of the really hard-hitting pieces about life immediately after such an event, although rape and murder do come up in the story. This tale concentrates on other things, which makes it so interesting and giving us food for thought that is usually missed.
We meet throughout this book then characters who are related to Leander, through marriage, and even his child, as well as friends of his, and those who for one reason or another have come into contact with him. This may not seem that important at the beginning of this, but it is as you read further into the tale.
By flicking between the past and the present so Emily St John Mandel keeps us intently reading, as we see how all the different pieces come together. We read of Kirsten here then who is travelling with the Symphony, a company that puts on musical events and Shakespearean plays, and as we see, when they eventually reach a town on their usual circuit to pick up a couple of their members, so things have changed, with the so-called Prophet in charge, and his cult. Kirsten was a child actor, who was there when Leander died, and also who was given a couple of comics by him, which were created by his first wife. This is only one link we see between the past and present.
This makes us think of the importance of art and culture on our lives, as well as the loss of those we know, and nostalgia for a past that no longer exists. Therefore memory plays a part here, and how civilisation plays an important part of our lives. By the latter years mentioned here, so life has sort of fallen into a routine, where some control and a touch of normality has started to seep into the everyday. This reminds us that although after some cataclysmic event life may change, eventually it will all fall back into a certain normality, and we can see this throughout history, with the plague, and other epidemics. Whilst people from before such an event are alive, so things can be passed onto newer generations, to keep certain practices and thoughts and ideals alive. Along with this we are also reminded that it is not in living that people gain immortality, but in what we do, and what we are remembered for – although nowadays for some people they think that just posting endless selfies is a fulfilling life. Therefore if you are looking for a basic post-apocalyptic novel you will not find it here. However, if you are looking for something a bit more thoughtful and intelligent, as well as literary, then here you have something that you should enjoy.
This novel is 333 pages long, split into 53 chapters. Short chapter usually help a book to read quickly by giving it pace so that's a good start.
The story starts with a death on stage then quickly becomes more menacing as a killer flu virus spreads rapidly around the world. Lots of people with interconnecting stories are introduced and there plenty of ominous warnings about the imminent end of the world as we know it. Having established the scenario the pace slows a bit as the characters come in. It picks up again once the links start to be established and I was hooked.
It's a complex story with plenty of drama. The narrative focuses on a few people who are still alive twenty years on but there are plenty of references back in time to explain what has happened since the virus first struck.
There are loads of unanswered questions which gives the story a genuine feeling.
Characters are allowed to develop but it is clear from the beginning that characterisation comes a second place to the descriptions of the post apocalyptic world in which they live.
After the initial panic, the book becomes very reflective and this is when it is at its best. Looking back at the futility of civilisation and the strength of humanity to survive.
Towards the end I found the plot stretched the boundaries, that it had successfully established, too far and I wasn't convinced that the ending matched the rest of the novel. This was always going to be a tough story to conclude and the author did a good job.