Our book club recently finished reading STATION ELEVEN by Emily St. John Mandel and as always I like to share our review with you. Also at the end of this post, you will find questions to ask at your own book club.
About the Author
Emily St. John is the author of four novels, most recently Station Eleven.
The Synopsis of STATION ELEVEN
Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devasting flu pandemic arrived in the city and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.
Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. they call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band’s existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.
This is the first time we have read anything by this author. This is a science-fiction book based on post-apocalyptic life. This is a genre we wouldn’t normally read. That being said, this book had an interesting subject matter that captivated our attention.
The beginning of the book was captivating and drew us in. It begins with the fatal heart attack of Arthur Leander while performing on stage. Kirsten is a young girl, at the time, also performing in the play and witnesses his death.
Soon after, the world as we know it comes to an end caused by an epidemic of a deadly flu virus. But unfortunately, the book did not deliver. The horror of such an event possibly happening could not be felt in the writing. The tone of the story was too calm and didn’t express the magnitude of what had happened.
From that point on the book began to jump back and forth between the present and before the epidemic and it was hard to connect to any of the characters or each scene of the story. We found ourselves becoming easily lost. As one member described it, “It was a choppy read and just didn’t flow.” But it does get you to think what would happen if 99% of the population was to be wiped out along with all the technology that we rely on today. Cell phone, computers, the internet, airplanes, cars, stores, electricity. The list goes on and on.
A lot of the book focused on theatre and music. Kristen is a member of the Traveling Symphony that risks their lives traveling from one settlement to another to bring the survivors the beauty of music. Something they felt was important and we understood that part of the book. But understanding the role of each character in the book and their connection to one another was sometimes confusing and trying to put the pieces together took away from staying focused on the storyline. The ending of the book left us with many unanswered questions and what the future holds for the new world.
Our Overall Rating
COVER DESIGN – 4 STARS – The cover design was in intriguing and the colors used were soft on the eyes. The title chosen for the book though was puzzling – named after a comic book written by one of the characters in the book.
CHARACTERIZATION – 3 STARS – Because the book jumped back and forth in time, it was hard to connect with any of the characters. They weren’t well developed and we felt we didn’t really get to know any of them.
STORY & PLOT 3 STARS – The fact that it was based on post-apocalyptic life was intriguing and we were looking forward to reading it but there wasn’t enough suspense or drama to keep us engaged.
OVERALL RATING – 3 STARS – In all honesty, the book was well written in some parts but fell short in many other areas. We gave it 3 stars.
Questions to ask at your book club
1 – Why do you think the author chose the title STATION ELEVEN?
2 – Did the book seem realistic to you? If 99% of the population was wiped out, is this how you imagine the world to be post-apocalyptic? If not describe what you vision after such an event.
3 – Why do you think the novel begins with a performance of King Lear? What do you think about the significance of Shakespeare, and King Lear in particular—the play, the character?
4 – What do you think of the electric lights Kirsten saw through the telescope at the airport? Do you think there could be large communities or even countries that have either been untouched by the collapse or have begun to rebuild?
5 – The lead caravan for the Travelling Symphony carries this line of text: Because survival is insufficient. It is a quotation from Star Trek: Voyager, the television series. What do you think it means in the context of the book?
6 – Through the novel, many of those that were alive before the flu epidemic remembers ceratin comforts that they no longer have. What would you remember? What item would you like to see in the airport museum?
7 – Did this book live up to your expectations?
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