Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Book - 2014
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An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
 
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear . Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
 
Fifteen years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave.
 
Spanning decades, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, this suspenseful, elegiac novel is rife with beauty. As Arthur falls in and out of love, as Jeevan watches the newscasters say their final good-byes, and as Kirsten finds herself caught in the crosshairs of the prophet, we see the strange twists of fate that connect them all. A novel of art, memory, and ambition,  Station Eleven  tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2014.
Edition: First edition.
ISBN: 9780385353304
0385353308
Branch Call Number: MANDEL E
Characteristics: 333 pages ; 22 cm

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From Library Staff

"One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's c... Read More »

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LPL_DirectorBrad Dec 08, 2014

What a great book! An exquisitely written meditation on life after the collapse of modern civilization.

This smash-hit read of 2014 follows a roaming theater troupe near the Great Lakes. The nature of art, beauty, and survival all play out delicately in a world that has seemingly ended.

Two people have brought up this book to me in the past week. That can't be a coincidence!

After a devastating flu wipes out most of the world’s population, a traveling theater troupe goes from community to community to perform Shakespeare and music for the survivors. Their motto, adapted from an episode of Star Trek, is “Because survival is insufficient.” Eventually they encounter a p... Read More »


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movieangel Apr 21, 2018

There are a lot of dystopian books out there, but few that feel as real and possible as this one. St. John Mandel has beautiful descriptions and complex characters. Playing with time and the things we all take for granted now, she created a compelling story that you're never quite sure where it's heading.

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wry_ginger
Apr 10, 2018

Really enjoyed the premise of this book, and found the multiple timelines & character perspectives engaging, although some timelines & characters are more engaging then others... It was a quick & compelling read, but I had hoped the ending would carry more of an impact.

o
orange_lobster_23
Apr 01, 2018

A finalist for the National Book Award , which was was/is widely read with critical acclaim
did not appeal to me. A dystopian genre set in Toronto and Northern Michigan covers a pre-and post pandemic world, centered mainly around a narcissistic aging actor whose on-stage
death coincides with the start of the pandemic. The characters loosely connected with this man struggle with grieving of the lost world they knew, and attempts to re-build their lives in an unfamiliar world. I felt better development of the survivors would have engaged the reader (me, anyway) more and feel more of a stake in their re-creation. Again, my criticism appears
to be in the minority and shouldn't deter a curious reader

r
RobSW
Mar 22, 2018

Shakespeare doesn't do much for me and the notion of a troupe of Shakespeare actors traveling through a dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscape is just too goofy. I don't think I made it to page 50, when the characters were rehearsing their lines to King Lear....(groan).

r
ruthdelagiroday
Mar 19, 2018

I hesitated starting to read this book because I didn't think I would like or feel connected to a book about performers in a play. It sounded way too sci-fi-ey for me. I WAS WRONG. This book is fantastic. The first few pages I thought my fears were being realized and that I was not going to be able to finish it, but then after that initial section (of 2 ish pages) I could not put the novel down. A really fantastic read & it was very difficult to read anything afterward because nothing lived up to it.

SPPL_Kristen Mar 13, 2018

It feels odd to call a novel about the apocalypse beautiful and tender, but that is exactly what Station Eleven is. It showcases the best (and worst) of humanity without tipping over into cheesiness. Mandel also captures the horrors of living in a post-apocalyptic world without leaning too heavily on gore and violence. Even if you're not usually into the genre, Station Eleven is worthy of your precious shelf space.

b
bobbodner
Mar 08, 2018

I read this because it was recommended by the BPL. Great read. Thanks for recommending it BPL.

Miss Maggie Mar 08, 2018

I was expecting people to travel through time a la worm holes or a supernatural force in physics since this book is cataloged as time travel fiction. Alas, what they actually mean is that the story is told in shifting perspectives in different time periods. Bummer. I like time travelers.

r
RebelBelle13
Feb 28, 2018

I didn't believe I would like this book very much. I'm not into dystopian, end-of-the-world, post-apocalyptic books. But this. This was done so beautifully. I loved how it was written, choosing one point in time- the death of Arthur Leander, as the moment that the world ended. St. John Mandel took that moment and spiraled outward, both forward and backward in time, years before the Georgia flu ended the world, and twenty years after. The blurb on the back is a little misleading; it claims it's about a traveling symphony and a prophet. It is, but it's so much more than that. It's really about five or six people who were close with the actor who passed away- their lives before and after the virus that killed 99% of the world's population. Mandel weaves the stories so seamlessly that we don't know that the characters are going to collide with each other until a few pages before, because we're so wrapped up in their individual struggles and survival.
Mandel is frank with us about her story and the cost of the flu that rampaged across the world. Kirsten finds skeletons in their cars. In their beds. On the side of the road. Mandel shares the fates of random characters with us. A stagehand dies of exposure on the road to Quebec a week after Leander dies. Two little girls die two days later at home in bed. An entire airplane full of sick people lands and stays closed for twenty years. This seems harsh, but the end of the world as we know it would be tragic, and terrible, and horribly sad. It is made clear that some people are immune to the virus, and others survived because they were hidden away and prepared.
In the end, this novel is more of a feeling, or an impression. The second half of the book was constantly giving me goosebumps. Mandel keeps using words like impossibly, irrevocably, inescapable, inevitable, and others that completely set the tone of the novel. It conveys despair and the end of something, but possibly also a beginning of something else.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone who specifically likes post-apocalypse novels, because this is more character driven than world-building, but here, it really works. Because, as Kirsten noted, "Survival is insufficient."

k
KatG1983
Jan 11, 2018

One of my most absolute FAVOURITE books. Mandel is a gifted writer who paints vivid scenes, and makes you care about each of the characters. A must read.

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Quotes

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t
Tjad2L
Jul 13, 2017

"[...] everyone knows when you've got a terrible marriage, it's like having bad breath, you get close enough to a person and it's obvious."

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.”

k
KaseyNB
Apr 14, 2017

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

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Summary

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melwyk Sep 25, 2014

One snowy night in Toronto, an actor playing King Lear drops dead on stage. Only 24 hours later, most of the city is dead from a rapidly spreading virus. The few survivors find, as the electricity and water stop, as the internet drops out, that the virus has killed 99% of the world's population.

The question arises: how to live now? In Emily St John Mandel's unusual approach to a post-apocalyptic novel, the survivors of this modern plague retain their longing for community and civilization, trying their best to live in pockets of humanity across North America.

Early on, we meet the Travelling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel caravan-style around the countryside, performing Shakespeare and symphonies to the scattered inhabitants of tiny settlements. As Kirsten, a main character, has tattooed on her arm: Survival is insufficient.

However, this symphony is also heavily armed, as chaos does exist in the new world. There are those in this rough life who rely on violence, including an eerie Prophet who controls a town the Travelling Symphony rolls into at the start of the story. This Prophet and his followers will pursue them for the rest of the book, adding an edge of suspense.

The story weaves back and forth from apocalyptic present to the past, revealing ways in which all the characters are connected. The constant return to 'before' results in a sense of nostalgia for what we haven't yet lost. Mandel points out precious elements of daily life that her characters have lost forever – the taste of an orange, the feel of air conditioning, ice cream, the ability to connect with one another by phone.

Throughout the book we also encounter Dr. Eleven, a scientist in a graphic novel that Kirsten has carried with her over the many years of post-apocalyptic life. The two volumes she owns of this tiny graphic novel sustain her. Dr. Eleven lives on a satellite, Station Eleven, after the earth is destroyed, and his story reflects her own. This imaginary graphic novel is fleshed out so wonderfully that I hope it is only a matter of time before Mandel releases a real-life edition.

This is a beautiful book; imaginative and full of complex characters, it is a post-apocalyptic novel that combines danger with beauty, sadness with hope. Mandel clearly believes that there is something good in humanity that will endure.

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