What this brilliant new read is NOT :
It is not a science fiction novel.
It is not a thriller or solely a dystopian vision of a post-apocalyptic world.
It is not just about pandemics or Shakespeare or nostalgia or comic books or Prophets.
Well, actually, it is all of the above, but it is so well written that it would be wrong to try and fit this book into any kind of genre, although I would be reckless enough to suggest that it’s got all the elements of a very well crafted mystery story, on top of everything else.
“Station Eleven” is one of my top reads so far this year (I know, it’s only March) : it’s a real page-turner, the plot moves effortlessly backwards and forwards in time, dropping clues and picking up threads from the first to the very last page. You care about the characters and you love the obvious fascination with hope springing eternal, yet there is never anything too trite about the idea of stripping everything right back to see what the human race will do under strife.
Am still basking in the joy of meeting the author tonight at the exciting (I don’t get out very often) reader event held at the unique Shakespeare and Company in the Latin Quarter. Emily St. John Mandel is an articulate, intelligent, (young!!) woman who read from her book beautifully and really put across her strong feelings about the importance of memory and nostalgia for the amazing things that occur continuously in everyday life which we all take for granted, and she also mentioned her recent awareness of being slotted into one of these ‘genres’, even if she feels her novels cut across various different styles. (Thank you so much B for the picture – proof we were indeed there…).
I enjoyed reading the NY Times review by Sigrid Nunez recently, but I beg to differ with the comment that the book falters by the futuristic characters not behaving very much more differently than we do today. That for me is exactly what makes the tale so very credible.
Here’s a taste of the Incomplete List from an early section of the book that she read to us :
“No more flight. No more towns glimpsed from the sky through airplane windows… No more airplanes, no more requests to put your tray table in its upright and locked position – but no, this wasn’t true, there were still airplanes here and there. They stood dormant on runways and in hangars… In the cold months, they were ideal for food storage… No more countries, all borders unmanned…. No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches… No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room.”
It’s a chilling prospect, don’t you agree (especially for one recently embarked on this blog project, n’est-ce pas?).
I came to this great book via a great recommendation (thank you, K!), and am poised now, ready to discover more from this same author. Jolly nice to be able to purchase “The Lola Quartet” tonight, and have it signed and dedicated to my 16 year old – who is currently 2/3rds of the way through “Station Eleven” at the time of writing, and thinks that it has all the makings of a very fine film. Handled with kid gloves, I think she could be right.
Read in February 2015.
Rating : 10/10