Station Eleven- Get Your Flu Shots!

Station Eleven

 

My decision to listen to the audio version of Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel was based on the fact I needed a book to get me through the work day. Not an inspiring start, but I am glad availability was a determining factor in choosing this most excellent book.

There is quite a lot of time shifting in this novel. In the first chapter, Arthur Leander dies of a heart attack while performing King Lear in a Toronto theatre. For most of the people in that theatre, in Toronto, in the world, it’s their last moments on Earth. The Georgia Flu will take 99% of the planet’s human population. Twenty years later, one of the actors in the theatre, an eight year old girl at the time, is still on the “stage” as a member of the Traveling Symphony. Kirsten Raymonde is part of the troupe of actors and musicians who travel the sparsely populated towns of North American entertaining the survivors of the flu’s brutal aftermath. As a group, their numbers help protect them from vandals, but even that can’t save them from a dangerous man known as “the Prophet.”

The night of the play, the people in the theatre, and loved ones of Arthur Leander become a touchstone for the readers. This seemingly inconsequential event in the grand scheme of things is constantly returned to during the novel. We’re taken back to Arthur’s early days, his love affairs and friendships. Some of these people will change the course of events for the survivors of the flu. Without even knowing it, they are connected.

There isn’t a lot more I can tell you about the plot that would make any sense, you just have to go with it. The style might not be everyone’s cup of tea. It isn’t really about the flu or the end of the world, but about human connections. We rely so much on technology to tell us what is happening in the world, with our friends and families. The survivors lament how they took for granted the ability to pick up a phone and talk to loved ones, how easy it was to get to anywhere in the world to see them. What happens when that all disappears? How will we know what happened to people?

I enjoyed the meandering style of Station Eleven, the shell-shocked survivors, and their connection to the fictional sci-fi graphic novel Station Eleven. There were so many small things I liked that added up to so much. Station Eleven reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s speculative fiction, and the literary devices that she uses. The Canadian setting helps too!

I also appreciated that it wasn’t too gloomy. Yes, terrible things happen throughout the novel, but there is hope for humanity by the story’s end. Just like the motto of the Traveling Symphony: “Because survival is insufficient.” Humans aren’t done yet!

About the Audio: Kirsten Potter narrates Station Eleven. She’s an award winning audiobook narrator and does an excellent job here. I can’t complain about her pronunciation. I really wonder if I would have enjoyed the book as much as I did if I had read it instead. 

audiobook review

11 comments:

  1. It was surprisingly hopeful. I mean, they wanted to document all that happened because they knew at some point the world would pick itself up again and that life would eventually carry on. All of the stuff that went on in the airport gave me chills. That plane!! Just sitting there! Oh my word. Heart palpitations.

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    1. Yes, that plane. There is something terrifying about it just silently sitting there and no one knowing what is happening in there.

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  2. Everyone is loving this book but I'm just not sure it's for me. I guess I need to give it a try one of these days.

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    1. Get it from the library, that way you won't feel bad if you don't read it. :)

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  3. Oh how I loved this book. I'm so curious what Emily St. John Mandel will do next, now that she's had this resounding success. She always seems to return to themes about absence, but apart from that, the three books I've read of hers have been soooo different. And I can't imagine trying to write a next book with the literary world's expectations sky-high as they will be.

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    1. This was my first from her so I'm nervous to read her other stuff. I wonder if I'll like it as much.

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  4. I had considered listening to this on audio, but bought it with Christmas gift cards instead. I am so glad that I did! I might reread by audio down the road. :)

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  5. I adored the writing in this one..I wonder how that came across on audio. What are you thoughts?

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    1. There were some bits that were striking. The narrator was such a good reader, but I suspect she had great material to work with.

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  6. I wonder if I would have liked this more had I listened to it. I didn't dislike it, mind you, but I was so removed from the entire story. Everyone else seems to have such strong emotions tied to it.

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