Station Eleven is a novel about the coming of the end of the world as we know it and how we cope with it afterwards. It follows a small group of people who are all connected to the actor Arthur Leander, and the story starts with his death on stage in Toronto just before the illness that wipes out the vast majority of the world’s population. The book is mainly set went years after the Georgia flu hits, and focusses particularly on Kirsten and the theatrical group that she travels with, but flashes back to show the lives our handful of characters were living before it all fell apart.
Why did I want to read it?
Absolutely word of mouth and good reviews and I seem to be absolutely in the middle of an end-of-the-world-novel reading spree at the moment (just wait until you see the next couple of reviews).
What did I think of it?
I absolutely adored this novel and have been trying to encourage like-minded friends to read it by describing it as a cross between The Girl With All The Gifts (which it absolutely isn’t except in the quality of the story telling) and A Visit From The Goon Squad (which it sort of is because of the connections between key characters). I read it in a couple of sittings (but I’ve been doing a lot of that recently!)
I loved Arthur’s story, a flawed man dealing with his fame and the impact that had on all the people around him, including the person who tried to save his life when he collapsed, and how some of that survived into the future through the memory of Kirsten who was so young when I tied but still has copies of the comic he gave her (drawn by his first wife) which gives the book its title and also provides a link to one of the more mysterious and unpleasant characters in the new world, The Prophet. The charismatic religious fanatic who creates a cult of personality and rules with an iron will is a bit of a cliché but in this incarnation at least is totally believable. I think people would look to someone like him to fill a void and give them a sense of purpose and direction even when they know that it isn’t right. It doesn’t take too much thinking to work out who The Prophet probably is but I don’t think that’s a big deal, it’s not meant to be a mystery but shows the impact such a disaster can have on an impressionable mind and how they night find the means to cope, however warped that might be.
But the book is really about relationships, professional and personal, friendship and love and how they resonate through time. There wasn’t a character that I didn’t engage with or feel some sympathy for and I wondered, as I always do with this type of novel, how I would cope in a similar situation.
If you haven’t done so already you must must read this. It’s so good I definitely intend to revisit it.