Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

April 18, 2018
 Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Knopf on September 9, 2014
Format Read: Paperback Edition (333 pages)
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic / Sci-fi /Contemporary
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Purchased
Station Eleven
An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains - this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.

Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.


Content Warning: Rape, Violence, Cult


I really wanted to love this story, but the enjoyable parts weren't long enough for me to stay invested with the characters. This book follows characters after a plague has killed off most people on earth. The premise sounded great and I was ready to read more about what happened after the plague and how people coped. Instead the book alternates between the past and the present, detailing characters lives that I could not relate to. The most engaging parts of the book happened in the present with characters who managed to stay sane and make a life for themselves the best way that they know how.
"...this collection of petty jealousies, neurosis, undiagnosed PTSD cases, and simmering resentments, lived together, traveled together, rehearsed together, performed together 365 days of the year, permanent company, permanent tour."
The Traveling Symphony only performs Shakespeare for small towns they encounter on the road. I have only read Romeo and Juliet, so was unfamiliar with the references and descriptions within. This was not a bad book, but the multi-genre approach to the narrative didn't work well for me. There were story lines that led no where and long descriptions of characters doing normal things. I wanted more mystery and there just wasn't enough.
"Hell is the absence of the people you long for."
The book focuses on the connections between people and had some surprising revelations along the way. Your enjoyment will hinge on whether your able to relate to the characters. The writing was great and made me thing of how much stake I have in modern technology. The many glowing reviews of this book means there is some magic here, I just didn't find it.

Recommended for Readers who
-are familiar with Shakespeare
-enjoy slow burn plot lines
-enjoy post apocalyptic stories


Emily St. John Mandel was born and raised on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada. She studied contemporary dance at the School of Toronto Dance Theatre and lived briefly in Montreal before relocating to New York.

Her fourth novel, Station Eleven, is forthcoming in September 2014. All three of her previous novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer's Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were Indie Next Picks, and The Singer's Gun was the 2014 winner of the Prix Mystere de la Critique in France. Her short fiction and essays have been anthologized in numerous collections, including Best American Mystery Stories 2013. She is a staff writer for The Millions. She lives in New York City with her husband.


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