Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
NOMINATING LIBRARY COMMENTS
Why does your life matter? What is the difference between living and mere survival? Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel, Station Eleven, abandons the cynicism of that gruelling genre to find a painful beauty in devastation, and to craft a glittering hopeful love-letter to humanity.
Station Eleven is set in the future after a flu pandemic, but it is mostly telling the story of people in our time who are leading their lives and connecting with others in ordinary ways. The power of this story lies in its ability to depict the important roles other people play in our lives.
Mandel’s novel deftly examines the fragility of life and beauty in a post apocalyptic world brought on by a catastrophic flu pandemic.
An actor stumbles, falls, his role as King Lear vanishing into mortality. An alert audience member, whose CPR training propels him onto the stage, cannot keep him alive. Both characters fall. The older man into death. The living man into a post-apocalyptic world. St. John Mandel twists what we know into what feels plausibly like what we could know “after”. Her propulsive language creates the after, describes the before and holds the reader in the question: can who we are after be predicted from who we are before?
Station Eleven is a wide-ranging novel. It is both bold and warm, literary fiction and genre fiction, high and low cultures – and that is the point isn’t it? When everything is levelled out, all previous judgements need not apply.
“Because survival is insufficient”: words tattooed on the arm of Kirsten, a young actress who at 8 years old survived a flu pandemic that killed millions worldwide. Years later she is part of a travelling theatre troupe at the center of this novel about a devastating turning point in human history. While the global pandemic tale is a familiar one, few others capture the human spirit’s seemingly instinctual drive to prioritize and preserve art in a post-apocalyptic world. What it costs humanity to remain is not only the physical struggle for survival but the fight for what keeps us culturally connected and spiritually alive.
A glittering portrait of civilization in the years following a worldwide pandemic, revealing who survives and what is left of culture in the aftermath. Foremost among the survivors is a travelling troup of actors and musicians.
The plot is exciting and the writing is excellent. The perseverance of the arts and human emotion in times of primal survivalism makes for an intriguing read.
This is a compelling dystopian novel with strong storytelling and believable characters.
A truly original book that encompases a wide scale but retains a strong narrative with precision writing. The breadth of vision is matched by the quality of the writing.