I don't usually read books that are on the best seller list just to read best sellers. On the other hand, when a book by an author who is not a "big name" has a book on the list for a long time I start to get interested. I also read a few blogs that review books to keep up with the books that may fly under the radar.
I noticed that Station Eleven
by Emily St. John Mandel had been on the best seller list for a while,
and I remembered it had gotten a great review on one of the blogs so I
picked it up. The story takes place 20 years after a virulent flu wipes
out about 90% of the world's population, although it opens with the
night the flu arrived in Canada. That night, Jeevan is attending a
production of King Lear in which Arthur Leander stars and Kirsten
Raymonde, a child of 8, has a small part. Arthur has a heart attack and
Jeevan, an EMT, tries to save him, with no luck. The flu arrives that
night and Jeevan and Kirsten are among the few who survive. The story
then takes up years later. Kirsten has joined The Symphony, a traveling
group of musicians and actors who put on Shakespearean plays and
concerts for the survivors of the flu because “Survival is not Enough.”
Traveling is difficult and dangerous. Survivors have grouped together
in small communities, but there are some on the road who are outlaws.
Cars have long been useless, so people have taken the motors out of
trucks and use them as wagons with horses to pull them.
The story follows the Symphony in the present, but also jumps back to
the past to tell Arthur Leander’s story and the people whose lives
touched his, and the ripple effect his life is still having on those
that knew him and survived.
I really enjoyed this book. Mandel has a very good writing style. I
always felt like I was in the story-that I could see what she was
describing. Also, unlike other dystopian novels, this one deals more
with the survival of art and culture than just mere survival. The
Symphony meant something, not just to the people in it, but to their
audiences. For the survivors, it reminded them of what they once had,
for the younger people it pointed to what was possible. For some, it
kept them sane.