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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2 Replies to “Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel”

  1. I fi­nally got around to read­ing this ex­cel­lent book, and also found it to be ‘can­’t put it down’. I’ll ad­mit to lov­ing sci-fi and spec­u­lat­ive fic­tion quite a bit though.

    How won­der­ful to re­cog­nize our own Denman Island, thinly dis­guised in this novel!

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