Saturday, December 27, 2014

Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)

There have only been a handful of books where I just wanted the days to end so I could continue to curl up with them.  It's been a very long time since I read one, but Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven fits the bill perfectly.  It's no fluke that it's on so many lists as one of the best books of 2014.

The novel begins as Arthur Leander, a celebrated actor, is onstage as King Lear.  He has a heart attack in the midst of performing, and Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo turned paramedic in the audience, rushes to his aid. Kirsten Raymonde, a child actress also in the show, watches in horror as Arthur dies.  The same night, a flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the population begins to spread, and the story takes on a post-apocalyptic tone.  As the years pass by, Kirsten joins the Traveling Symphony, a group dedicated to keeping the arts alive in this new world among the widespread settlements.  

The author seamlessly weaves various time periods into the narrative, from Arthur's life with his many ex-wives to Jeevan immediately following the outbreak to the way major and minor characters connect years later.  I felt immensely satisfied when I was finished; every loose end was tied up and it was lovely to see how things came full circle.  Station Eleven was a joy to read, but certainly not in the conventional way.  I may even break my rule of only reading a book once for this one.