Liz Currently Loves….Station Eleven by Emily St.John Mandel.


Publication Date: September 10th 2014 from Picador.

Thank you to Ruth Hunt, the author and publisher for the review copy.

The Georgia Flu explodes over the surface of the earth like a neutron bomb.
News reports put the mortality rate at over 99%.
Civilization has crumbled.
A band of actors and musicians called the Travelling Symphony move through their territories performing concerts and Shakespeare to the settlements that have grown up there. Twenty years after the pandemic, life feels relatively safe.
But now a new danger looms, and he threatens the hopeful world every survivor has tried to rebuild.

I read this a few weeks ago and its taken me until now to get over the book hangover and manage a bit of cohesive thinking about what I would like to say. Perhaps I’ll start by saying –  this is another terrific 2014 release that is definitely in the running for my Favourite Read of the Year (won last year by Pierce Brown’s wonderful “Red Rising”) and I’m going to be hard put to choose when we finally reach December.

Moving through past and present with a deft hand, Emily St.John Mandel weaves a magical and often emotional tale about a world in the throes of rebirth, using a brilliant cast of eclectic and wonderfully drawn characters and putting at the heart of it The Travelling Symphony – a mixed group of actors and musicians who bring some light to the struggle wherever they go. Their mantra “Survival is Insufficient” is a running theme throughout the book and whilst this is a most delicious story that will keep you reading long into the night, it is also extremely thought provoking, giving you time to pause and consider just what things should be important in life. This world has no technology to speak of, but despite the initial horror, may have gained something far more enchanting. If that is, things are allowed to evolve quietly – when the symphony falls under the watchful gaze of an emerging threat, a very different battle begins.

I don’t want to say too much on the plot, this is extremely cleverly constructed, using as it does only a 20 year gap between the “apocalypse” and the journey the symphony (and others) are taking. With tremendous insight into then and now, the memories of the “Old” world remaining intact amongst many, some of the most emotional moments come from those recollections. A true sense of nostalgia here for things that you and I still possess. The story flows over you, it is so beautifully written that you will absolutely live every moment.

When I came to the end I was bereft – I think I went a full 24 hours without picking up another book and that NEVER happens to me – so that alone should tell you something. I am truly hoping for more from this world.  Haunting, evocative and gracefully elegant,  yet with an absolutely accessible tale that could easily be called Literary AND an addictive beach read, I would highly recommend that you add this to your must read lists. Oh and that cover – isnt it stunning?

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Happy Reading Folks!

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