Rating: 5/5 stars
Read if You Enjoy: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, dystopia
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.
Goodreads Status Updates:
Page 13: “The synopsis is really intriguing, so I’m hoping for big things”
Page 27: “This has such an engaging beginning”
Page 110: “THE CONNECTIONS!!!”
Page 231: “!!!!!!!!!!”
“These are the times when I want to stop,” August whispered. “You ever think about stopping?”
“You mean not travelling anymore?”
“You ever think about it? There’s got to be a steadier life than this.”
“Sure, but in what other life would I get to perform Shakespeare?”
Life has a funny tendency of tying things together.
What we often perceive as loose ends – as random strings of happening – are part of a much bigger picture, like a single thread in a tapestry.
Station Eleven explores this idea, along with many other ideas, in so much depth and detail, I was astounded by the new revelations and connections with every turn of a page.
I have always been interested in the subject matter of this novel – what would happen if the world suddenly came crashing down around me? If a pipe-dream zombie apocalypse rocked the world from its steady, daily routine? If one day I woke up, and everything I knew was just…gone? Though harrowed by even the thought of something so life-altering, I find myself drawn to books that explore this topic, and thus I was drawn to Station Eleven.
The abundance of literary awards Station Eleven carries isn’t surprising – this is 333 pages of literary gold, from the flawless pace to even the most discreet details, like names and places repeated; the depth of this novel is stunning, spanning over 20 years and not skipping a single one. Mandel seamlessly switches between points of view as well as time periods, exploring the lives of each and every character from start to end.
A fitting adjective for this novel would be satisfying.
Granted, this book is devastating and phenomenal, a modern classic and everything in-between. But the depth and the detail and the conclusion of this book all in conjunction with one another are so utterly pleasing, because I left this novel feeling as though it was complete, as if I wouldn’t make any adjustments, or alter any plot lines, or reveal anything sooner. Like life, like a tapestry, everything comes together at the end, and though some things are revealed along the way, it is only when perfectly relevant.
Station Eleven is a dystopian novel, and so I am entering this novel for the number 48 spot on the Around the Year in 52 Books challenge: A dystopia. Yay!