News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
WEEK TWO: Civilization has crumbled.
YEAR TWENTY: 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 relatively safe.
But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.
Moving backwards and forwards in 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. (summary from Goodreads)
I loved this clever, intricately plotted post-apocalyptic novel which offers no easy answers. This is not a ‘X saves the world’ type post-apocalyptic story; it’s much more chaotic, fractured and oddly realistic than that (in the characters it offers, if not the connections between them).
My initial thoughts on finishing:
Lyrical, intricate and stark; a haunting tale of the pockets of humanity left behind after a flu pandemic. Love the complex structure which circles the key players, encouraging the reader to guess at links between them, pulling it all ever tighter until revelation of those relationships becomes inevitable.
It reminded me in various ways of some of my favourite writers: Margaret Attwood, Jeanette Winterson and Angela Carter. Attwood for the lyricism similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, Winterson for the complex timeline and Carter for the theatrical links.
I’ve been merrily recommending it to sixth formers looking for interesting ‘Wider Reading’ beyond the syllabus and to my delight some have taken me up on it (and enjoyed it). I had a lovely conversation with one student about our mutual feeling of wanting to draw a diagram to map out all the links and the timelines involved – not because we were confused or struggling to keep track, but out of curiosity to see how that would pan out. I’m curious to know whether Mandel has such a set of diagrams in her planning!
I would definitely recommend this as a thoughtful, beautiful book.
Station Eleven is out now from Picador. I am grateful to have been given access to a review copy via NetGalley.