Review: Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Station Eleven
By Emily St. John Mandel
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780385353304, September 2014, 352pp.)

The Short of It:

Civilization ends and begins and through it all there is music and Shakespeare.

The Rest of It:

I’m not sure I can even sum this book up! This is a crazy good book but not in your typical sense of what crazy good is. It spans decades and begins with the death of an actor while he’s onstage during a production of King Lear. Through flashbacks, we get to know Arthur Leander, his loves, his personalities and all the relationships he’s touched in-between. His death on-stage is witnessed by many, including a child actor named Kristen, who later is part of the Traveling Symphony roaming what is left of civilization after a pandemic. The man who comes to his aid, and fails, also appears later in the story and is one of the first to figure out that the “flu” that everyone is coming down with, is not your average bug.

This story will haunt you. The visuals of a landscape changed by illness are chilling. I don’t want to scare anyone away from it so I will say this, it’s not your typical ‘end of the world’ scenario. You can read, even in the dead of night and not have nightmares but just the idea of art and music existing in such a wrecked and broken world is enough to blow your mind. Plus, the use of time is handled very well. I am not a huge fan of jumping back and forth in time to tell a story but the before and after in this one works to really give you an idea of just how much has changed.

Is there hope? Is it too bleak of a story? No. I think that the continuation of art in and of itself is a sign of something good. I’ve not read anything by this author before and I understand she has a few other books out. I will definitely check them out since I enjoyed this one so much.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

17 thoughts on “Review: Station Eleven”

    1. I think it gets extra points just for being so unique. It’s just so different from anything I’ve read in that genre.


  1. I have read one of her earlier books, The Singer’s Gun. It was okay for me, not great, and after I read it I didn’t especially feel a need to read her follow up books. But this one does sound interesting at the very least.

    1. Outside of your comfort zone because of the end of the world aspect of the story? It’s very mild. Subtle. If you can even refer to the end like that. It’s almost like that is just a theme running along in the background. It’s really quiet good.


  2. Every time I see another great review of this, I get a little more excited to read it. It seems like it’s appealing to so many different people and that’s so hard to do!

  3. This sure sounds like a great read. In this time of Ebola spreading, could this be even prophetic. But I’m intrigued by the power of art and music in a catastrophic state of our world. Fascinating.

    1. Every couple of years we have a scare of some sort. Ebola is certainly of concern now but measles is coming back and a few years ago we had H1N1 so reading about pandemics is always interesting. This book was so different in that it focused more on the landscape than what happened to set it all off. I kept picturing a desolate land with the sounds of a violin in the background.


  4. Glad to hear you liked this one. I had this one on my list of top picks for Sept. releases. It seems a bit more than a typical dystopian novel, right?

    1. Most end of the world, dystopian books take you through the process but this book sort of fast forwards to a world AFTER the big event. Which makes it a little hopeful since they are all alive and there are signs of revitalization here and there.


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