Station Eleven

by Emily St John Mandel

In just a few days the population of the world is wiped out through a highly contagious and deadly flu pandemic. Only 1 per cent of the population survives and, when they emerge from their self-enforced incarceration, they have to endure years and years of walking the land and what’s left of civilization.

Not the sort of book I would usually choose for entertainment or relaxation but it's not as grim as it sounds.

The narrative flits back and forth - from the members of a theatre company in the time before the pandemic struck and then twenty years after the global collapse when the worst is over and survivors have banded together into isolated settlements. A travelling group of players has sprung up and performs music and plays from Shakespeare. 

It is a fascinating book and it stays with you long afterwards. It explores how art can help bolster our impressions of the world and help us work through our solitude. It investigates community, resourcefulness, memory and loss, nostalgia and yearning. One character says ‘the more you remember, the more you’ve lost’.

We had an animated discussion at the book group meeting as it was something that everyone wanted to explore – would this have happened, would that have happened, how do you think you would have reacted if you had been a survivor, what would you have contributed to the new society?

Review date: May 2015
Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel