Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

This is one of those pick it up and can’t put it down books. Station Eleven is enga­ging, com­pel­ling and eer­ily plaus­ible.

The nov­el, released in Sept. 2014, is writ­ten by Emily St. John Mandel who was born and raised on the west coast of Canada and now resides in New York City. For part of her youth, she was homeschooled on Denman Island which is cur­rently home to about 1,000.

But don’t just take my word about the book. Station Eleven has received rave reviews, appeared on the New York Times Bestseller list, been writ­ten about in The New Yorker and was short­l­is­ted for the 2014 National Book Awards.

Published by Harper Avenue  ISBN 978-1-44343-486-7

Published by Harper Avenue
ISBN 9781443434867

The book is in its six­teenth print­ing and Mandel has tour dates booked in the USA, United Kingdom, France and beyond into the spring of 2016.

The story takes place some­time in the future after a cata­stroph­ic pan­dem­ic wipes out huge seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion and des­troys life as we know it. That means no inter­net, tele­vi­sion, air­planes, auto­mo­biles or even gro­cery stores. Who sur­vives and what must they do in order to do so?

In Station Eleven, Mandel devel­ops a cast of char­ac­ters, most not­ably a Shakespearian/​music troupe, who travel through­out the Great Lakes region. They search empty homes for canned goods, camp out in Walmart’s and air­port ter­min­als and do their best to avoid reli­gious fan­at­ics and fam­il­ies who have gone fer­al.

The writ­ing is a seam­less explor­a­tion of per­son­al­it­ies and rela­tion­ships, alli­ances and con­front­a­tions. Mandel takes the read­er on an epic jour­ney from past to present to por­tray a vis­ion of endur­ance, friend­ship and com­pas­sion.

In my former pos­i­tion as arts writer for the Comox Valley Record, I inter­viewed Mandel and reviewed her first two nov­els, Last Night in Montréal and The Singer’s Gun. Those books were good but Station Eleven is excel­lent.

And although I usu­ally shy away from books that even hint at dysto­pi­an sci­ence fic­tion, Mandel’s mas­ter­ful and genre defy­ing writ­ing found me eagerly pick­ing up Station Eleven each even­ing and sorry to reach the end.

A few words from Emily:

I wanted to write some­thing quite dif­fer­ent from my pre­vi­ous three nov­els, which were gen­er­ally cat­egor­ized as lit­er­ary noir. I was happy with the way they turned out, but thought it would be inter­est­ing to go in a dif­fer­ent dir­ec­tion. I love film and theatre, and am inter­ested in the idea of what it means to devote your life to your art, so decided to write about the life of an act­or.

At the same time, I was inter­ested in writ­ing about the mod­ern world, this extraordin­ary place in which we find ourselves: where water comes out of faucets, air­planes cross the sky, light­ing a room is as simple as flick­ing a switch on the wall, and anti­bi­ot­ics are avail­able.

One way of writ­ing about some­thing is to con­sider its absence, so I thought it would be inter­est­ing to set the book in a post-apo­ca­lyptic land­scape, as a way of con­sid­er­ing the mod­ern world. I think of the book as a love let­ter to the mod­ern world, writ­ten in the form of a requiem.

I wrote Station Eleven over the course of two and a half years and spent anoth­er three months edit­ing it once I sold it to my pub­lish­er.  I’m cur­rently work­ing on a new nov­el but the topic’s a secret!  

To find out more vis­it www​.emily​man​del​.com.

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One Response to Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

  1. Bev Byerley says:

    Sounds very intriguing — I want to read it!

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