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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Station Eleven


I bought Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel five years ago and finally decided to grab it from the unreads in my Kindle file, having delayed because I thought it might be too sci-fi for my liking (it wasn't). I'm not sure whether reading a book about the world in the grip and aftermath of a deadly pandemic while Covid-19 rages around me was a good choice or a poor one. The story opens with Arthur Leander, a famous actor, dying of a heart attack on a Toronto stage just as a lethal flu begins to spread across the world, killing all who get it within hours. It is an engaging and totally gripping first chapter. In weeks most of the world's population is decimated and the survivors are left without electricity, gasoline, running water or medication for pre-existing health conditions. They have to hunt for food and defend themselves from aggressors. The story skips back and forth from the pre-pandemic years to life two decades post-apocalypse. It follows the stories of Arthur and those who were close to him: his best friend, his two ex-wives, his son, a young girl who was acting in the play with Arthur and the paramedic who performed CPR on him when he suffered the fatal heart attack. The Traveling Symphony is a group of musicians and actors travelling in horse-drawn wagons around the Ontario-Michigan region, entertaining the residents of small settlements with concerts and theatrical performances because life goes on. Their motto is 'Survival Is Insufficient', a quote lifted from Star Trek. 'Station Eleven' is a comic book series written by Arthur's first wife, Miranda, that mirrors the disaster and appears in different hands throughout the book.

To me Station Eleven has a very wistful feeling. It's about longing, memory, world weariness and resilience. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would and was sorry when it ended.

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