Sunday 2 November 2014

Book Review, Station Eleven By Emily St John Mandel


One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, 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.

My Musings

The book centres on events before and after the world is virtually wiped out by a lethal flu virus. Bearing in mind that ebola dominates the news at the moment this is very topical and unsettling. The quickness of the spread of the disease and how fast the world network crumbles is horrifying and , when you think about it in the cold light of day, a real possibility. Things we take for granted like electricity is a thing of the past and we see this new harsh world through the eyes of a small group of actors and musicians touring through the scattered communes of survivors. Some are friendly, some not so much, a bit like a futuristic wild west. The mental struggle with the isolation and how small the world has become without technology is chilling. St John illustrated vividly how minor things become huge, like a small cut becoming life threatening with no treatment. The touring band have to learn to take care of themselves, kill or be killed. Law and order are a thing of the past.

The story bounces back into the past also, following the life of an eminent actor who  dies in the first pages of the book from a heart attack. His journey to fame, his loves and his son. The past and present are woven together through random details which become significant later. Emily St John Mandel  has an intricate and vivid imagination that gives a filmatic flair to her storytelling. It is about survival, intimacy, friendship and courage. It is also about hope in the face of grave adversity. Thought provoking  and mythic in dimension it would be a great book for discussion in a book group. I warily say it would make a great film but she weaves such beautiful imagery of a future world I don't see how a film could possible capture it. 
Enjoy and be enraptured.

Emily St John Mantel Website

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