Book Review: Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven cover

Title: Station Eleven
Author: Emily St. John Mandel
ISBN: 9780385353304
Pages: 320
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Literary Fiction, Dystopian/Post-apocalyptic
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


One night, a performance: Arthur Leander, a once-famous actor, dies of a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That same night, a mysterious illness begins to sweep the nation, sparing few and changing the nature of the world as we know it.

Snapshot Review:

A beautifully written novel that focuses on the end of civilization through the prism of intricately constructed characters, Station Eleven provokes deep questions while telling a mesmerizing and timely story.

Full Review:

I know what you’re thinking. “That summary . . . isn’t really a summary.” And you’d be right—are Arthur’s death and the sickness connected? Where did this illness come from? And who tells the story, if the only person I name in the summary dies at the beginning of the book? These are all very good questions, but I’m not going to give you the answers. Station Eleven is a book that’s best read without foreknowledge of the events that occur in the novel; when I picked it up, all I knew was that it was about some sort of plague, and that’s why I was able to revel in it as much as I did.

The storyline of Station Eleven is eerily prescient with what is happening in the world with the Ebola virus right now. Yes, of course I know they aren’t the same thing, but it feels as though contagion has been at the back (or front) of our minds for awhile now, which makes this novel both timely and extra creepy. The book isn’t about the downfall of civilization as much as it’s about the people experiencing it, and those left behind after everything goes quiet. It’s a character-driven novel that jumps through time, telling a slowly unfolding interconnected story through the eyes of very different people.

Mandel takes time with her characters in Station Eleven. As the novel travels back and forth through time, telling parts of the story before you can fully see the whole, it’s important to have an emotional connection to the characters. The author does this expertly, making the reader invested in each and every narrator of this book and beyond. The gorgeous writing also helps to really pull the reader into the narrative, ensuring that they are hooked on the story, and when the connections start to surface, it’s both satisfying and rewarding.

Station Eleven is Emily St. John Mandel’s major publisher debut (she’s written three books with a smaller press, all of which I’ve read and loved), and it’s been getting a lot of well-deserved buzz. This is a novel I’m going to be recommending left and right in the coming weeks and months; not only is Mandel an incredible writer, but her characters are so expertly crafted that it’s difficult to believe that they don’t exist somewhere, sometime. I can’t heap enough praise on this novel, and only hope you’ll take my word for it and buy this as soon as possible.

Other books by Emily Mandel:

Last Night in Montreal
The Lola Quartet
The Singer’s Gun

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  1. I’ve seen this book around and I’m not really into post-apocolyptic so hadn’t paid that much attention to it, but your review totally intrigued me. I’m adding it to my TBR list.

  2. Complete agreement here! My favorite apocalyptic novel of the summer/fall. I absolutely loved it and am pitching the hell out of it to everyone I know!

  3. I love this genre and having read The Singer’s Gun I just couldn’t resist buying this book. Like you said, it sure does take time but it is thoroughly satisfying.

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