From the very first page I was engrossed in this book. This book is filled with musings about life from characters who are witnessing the end of the world as they know it. The novel starts with the death of Arthur Leander on stage as he is performing the role of King Lear. His death happens the same night as a flu virus sweeps across the world and kills exposed people within hours. The chapters that follow recount the lives of some of the people who managed to survive the virus, and people who were instrumental in the life of Arthur Leander who even though he dies in the first few pages is the story’s anchor.
His main rival for title character is Kirsten, who is just a child when he dies, but the story follows her some 15-20 years later when she is travelling around America with The Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who go from outpost to outpost performing Shakespeare. I found it a little difficult to identify with Kirsten, but I think that was part of her appeal. She is a complex woman who is surviving in a world that collapsed when she was around 8 years old. She has no idea what happened to her parents, her brother died a few years after the collapse and she has been travelling for most of her life and trying to piece together a missing year from her life that she can’t remember.
I liked the character of Jeevan most, even though he appeared very little in the book after the first few chapters. In the beginning, he is the person who tries to resuscitate Arthur as he is dying on stage and then the story sticks with him as he barricades himself with his brother in his flat and waits out the impact of the virus. After that, the book doesn't mention him until towards the end where you find out what happened to him after he left Toronto. My only criticism of the book is that I would have liked to have read what happened to Jeevan in those missing years.
I found this book to be engrossing and thought provoking. It made me wonder how I would cope if the world as I know it was to end (the answer? Not very well). This one is well worth a read.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is available now from Waterstones.
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