Station Eleven

July 15, 2015 Book Reviews 0

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Published by Knopf Goodreads

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

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.

My Thoughts:  I was excited to read Station Eleven when it came out in 2014.  It had quite a bit of hype surrounding it and some of my favorite bloggers loved it.  I obviously didn’t get to it last year, but I was still excited when I picked it up.  A dystopian world brought on by a strain of swine flu.  Sign me up!  This is the kind of book that I relish reading multiple times.

The story jumped all over the place.  I found myself confused for a few seconds when it would jump, trying to figure out exactly where we were time-wise.  At one point we were talking about 20 years after the collapse and then suddenly we’re talking about a completely different character the day the flu hit North America.  There were no transitions and when there was something resembling a transition, it wasn’t very good.

I was shocked by the characters.  Arthur Leander dies at the very beginning and then he’s still a huge part of the story.  Plus the more I learned about him, the less I liked him.  His whole life was just too dramatic for me, especially since he brought it all on himself.  By the end of Station Eleven, I’d completely run out of sympathy, empathy or any other good feelings toward him.  Kirsten was so boring.  I didn’t have any sympathy for her and every time the book went back to her story, I found myself rolling my eyes (never a good sign when reading).  Jeevan was kind of interesting, but he was barely in Station Eleven once the collapse started.  I don’t know if that was intentional or if the author just forgot about him while writing.

The traveling symphony probably should’ve been more interesting than they actually were.  Any drama seemed manufactured and forced.  I did really like their motto though, “Because survival is insufficient.”  That’s true even now and I think more of us should remember that (including me).  Most of the symphony members didn’t even have names.  They were called the conductor, the sixth guitar, etc.  I couldn’t decide if that was lazy writing or if the author was making a point (I’m pretty sure it was the latter).

Overall, I did not enjoy Station Eleven.  I was utterly disappointed by it.  There was a ton of potential there, but it somehow managed to be ridiculously boring.  If I’m being honest, the only reason it wasn’t a DNF for me was because I was reading it with my Mom.  There were too many characters, too many time jumps and none of it was really holding my attention.  I would not recommend Station Eleven.

2.5 out of 5 Bookmarks = It somehow managed to bore me (I still don’t really know how that happened).

Interested in buying this book?  Amazon or Barnes & Noble

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