Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia, Adult
Published: January 1st, 2014
Source: Personal Purchase
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
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.
Though I gave this book a 3.5 rating (which is still a good rating. See my rating system.)I was just a bit disappointed because I wanted to enjoy this a lot more than I did.
» Plot: This story follows the life of those who survived the Gorgian Flu that wiped out most of humanity. We specifically follow the Traveling Symphony who are a caravan of performers that move from camp to camp and perform Shakespeare and music. The story goes back and forth from the present to the past, before the collapse, when it all started.
» Other: It was very interesting to see that everyone that we followed was connected one way or another. It’s like a string connects them all and I loved following that string, seeing how their lives cross paths and seeing how one person affects the other even though neither of them may not know.
I love how art plays such an eminent role in this story. The Traveling Symphony are a group that play music and perform Shakespeare plays for different camps. It’s their way of coping, it’s their way of living in a world with so many dead.
Arthur, who is pretty much the string that connects everyone, is an actor. Kirsten, a member of the Symphony is an actress and her friend is a musician. The title of the story it’s self “Station Eleven” is named after the comic book Kirsten loves so much and is what connects so many in the story.
Art is everywhere.
» Writing: I’ve heard so many wonderful things about the writing. And while Mandel is definitely an admirable storyteller and writer, it didn’t completely awe me like it seemed to do for so many other readers. There were some moments that I thought were surreal and others that I felt were meant to feel surreal but I didn’t (though the writing was good) care enough for. Then there’d be something like: “I stood over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”
or: “What was like for you, at the end?”
“It was exactly like waking up from a dream.”
and then I’d be like: Damn, that’s beautiful. And then there are other ares I felt were too slow.
» Characters: I wasn’t rooting for, nor was I rooting against, any of the characters. I was just observing, seeing how everything unraveled. I think the only characters that I cared for and that interested me were August (Kirsten’s friend) and Jeevan the person the story opens with. But I didn’t get much from either character. I was especially disappointed that I didn’t get to know more about Jeevan. He’s in the very beginning of the book and then just dwindles out of the story.
Quotes from the Book:
- “No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.”
- “It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.”
- “She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”
- “First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”
- “They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.”