Station Eleven review - "Survival is insufficient"
Emily St John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic tale is certainly one that sticks with you. A deadly flu epidemic sweeps across the world and destroys humanity as we know it. What makes the novel even more chilling is perhaps current events hitting a bit too close to home.
There's something very subtle about Station Eleven. Whilst many end-of-the-world novels can be brash, dramatic and lack humanity, Emily St John Mandel’s story is quite the opposite.
Station Eleven is quiet, patient, dark, lonely and somewhat uplifting. It leads us to question: what would we cling on to if the world as we know it were to end?
A quiet apocalypse
This book's elegant approach to the apocalypse is something that I've never seen before. We follow the few survivors on their journey for meaning. A travelling symphony performing the works of Shakespeare visits various settlements to bring back fragmented memories of the old world which has long since been forgotten.
I wouldn't say that this novel focusses on plot, it is much more a theme, a collective experience as we experience the character's lives in such extreme circumstances. We also follow the lives of characters before the apocalypse who died before the birth of a new world. However, there seems to be a parallel between the old and new world - both are fighting for meaning.
"Hell is the absence of the people you long for"
Station Eleven teaches us that to simply survive is not enough. We need passion, meaning and people that we love. Every character is searching for this as "survival is insufficient".
Take Arthur Leander, an ageing Hollywood star, who died when the Georgia Flu first hit. He has a long string of ex-wives, constantly searching, chasing and reaching for more. His story is recreated in life after the pandemic when others are desperately doing the same.
If you are looking for plot and action, this book might not be for you. Station Eleven is a study on humanity and the things that we leave behind.