BOOK REVIEW: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mendel

The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.
News reports put the fatality rate at 99%
Civilization has crumbled.
A band of actors and musicians called The Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels pretty safe.
But now, a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.
Moving backwards and forwards ín time, from the glittering years just before the collapse to the strange and altered world that exists twenty years after, Station Eleven charts the unexpected twists of fate that connect six people: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan- warned about the flu just in time; Arthur's first wife Miranda; Arthur's oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony and the mysterious and self-proclaimed 'prophet'.
Thrilling, unique and deeply moving, this is a beautiful novel that asks questions about art and fame and about the relationships that sustain us through anything- even the end of the world.

Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: 10th September, 2014

This post-apocalyptic novel was quite a different read for me but one that I've very much enjoyed and it left me with a lot to think about.
Station Eleven goes back and forth, before the Georgia Flu has wiped out much of the world and then the aftermath where we follow some of the survivors. In the past we get to know famous actor Arthur Leander and he is the character that links all of the others, past and present. Arthur died the night that the Georgia Flu hit yet he still exists in the current world, through some character's memories plus celebrity memorabilia that has survived.
In the present, the author mainly focuses on Kirsten, she was a child actress who worked with Arthur and now she is part of the Travelling Symphony. One one of the symphony's caravans is the quote: 'survival is insufficient.' and that really is the issue that the author is exploring. All of the characters in the present have had to learn to survive but is that enough? Should they not still enjoy the beauty of their surroundings, can they not pass some time watching Shakespeare being performed?
Station Eleven is not just the title of the book but also the title of a comic series written by  Arthur's ex-wife. Two copies are in circulation and St. John Mendel looks at how differently they (and art in general) can be interpreted. Something borne from someone's
imagination is shown to have far reaching consequences.
Station Eleven very much makes you think, certain parts of it gave me goosebumps as it is all so realistic. We only have to look at the issue of Ebola in the news to understand that this is a situation that could arise and Emily St. John Mendel's description of The Georgia Flu and how it spread are terrifyingly believable.
At the start of the book I was willing certain characters to avoid the flu and survive but as we spend time with the survivors we begin to question whether they really are the lucky ones?
Emily St. John's writing has a real literary feel to it, I love how she subtly poses questions for the reader to mull over, sometimes providing answers and other times, leaving them open. Station Eleven is an interesting read that I think a lot of people will be talking about.

Many thanks to Picador for allowing me to download a review copy from Netgalley. 


Kim said...

Sounds really interesting and a bit unusual, too. Will definitely keep an eye on this author. Thanks for the review, Dot!

Dot said...

Thanks Kim, it was certainly one to make you think xxx

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