Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Station Eleven

by Emily St. John Mandel
published: Vintage Books, 2014
pages: 333

The Georgia Flu swept in with little more acknowledgement than the common flu.  Twenty years later, there are few people left that actually remember a time before everything went down, a time of technology and gasoline and electric lights.  Kristen was young when the Georgia Flu struck but she managed to survive.  She travels around from settlement to settlement with a troupe people who perform the great works of Shakespeare and classic music.  Rarely do they run into trouble, they come across a town that will threaten the very existence of the troupe and Kristen's only home.

I don't think I've ever read a post-apocalyptic book where I actually witness the apocalypse.  Usually, I get to deal with the aftermath.  This book gives us everything from beginning to end and it's so so interesting.

The storytelling in the books is amazing.  It is captivating and moving and beautifully written.  It bounces around in the past and the present worlds, the time before the pandemic and the time after.  The stark differences between these two time periods are captured with phrases and illustrations of people interaction and the physical beauty of the world around them.  Every person in this story is connected in some fashion and as the story is unraveled the relationships and connections are revealed.  It really takes the small world aspect of life to its fullest.

I love that the group of people we follow post pandemic is a group of musicians and actors and their role in this life is to provide entertainment to the towns they travel through.  I love that they exclusively run Shakespeare.  It's so telling, what people in this novel choose to perpetuate and honor from the old world.  Shakespeare is one of those things, technology is another.

There's a bit of mystery to this story.  Things aren't always explained when they are first brought up.  Most of the time we get the answers we are looking for, but never in the time or the way we expect to get them.  This book feels so much like life, like I'm living my life with these characters, getting to know them a little bit at a time and not always through the original source.

The last line of this book sums it up beautifully without giving anything away.  "He likes the thought of ships moving over the water, toward another world just out of sight."

Stars: 4/5


"It's hard to imagine a novel more perfectly suited, in both form and content, to this literary moment."
     --The New Yorker

"[A] surprisingly beautiful story of human relationships amid...devastation."
     --Washington Post

"Soul-quaking....Mandel displays the impressive skill of evoking both terror and empathy."
     --The Los Angeles Review of Books

A 2015 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge book!
A 2015 Full House Reading Challenge book!

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