2016 Reading Challenge Book 20 – Station Eleven

Hi, Hey, Hello!

How are we all on this first Tuesday of July?

The halfway point of the year has now passed (whaaaaa?) and somehow I have managed to also reach the halfway point with this good ol’ reading challenge of mine. I’m pretending that the remaining books are all hefty little things that could take a while to get through. It’s fine, I’ve got half the year left. It will be fine.

So the book that brought me to the halfway point is this one (that has only been on my radar for a few months and yet somehow shot its way up to the top of my TBR):

Station Eleven, Book 20, 2016 Reading Challenge
Station Eleven, Book 20, 2016 Reading Challenge

Now this book opens and sets the scene and foundations of it in Shakespeare is always going to be a winner with me, because I’m me and Shakespeare is the way to my heart and soul. Anyway, Shakespeare opens the novel and in true Shakespeare tragedy fashion everybody dies. Well not strictly everyone, but the majority of civilisation as we know it is is destroyed and our fair scene is laid.

The main thing that struck me about this book was the structure of it all. I love it when books play around with structure because it keeps you on your toes and makes it unexpected. The unexpected makes things interesting. This kept jumping between the fall out of the Georgian Flu (which really fucked some shit up, it has to be said…damn) and the world before it and the tension of the post-apocalyaptic world. The way they take place in two very distinctly different periods of time and yet the story, funnily enough, intertwines into this fascinating and compelling to read story that I was so drawn into that I blitzed through it before I knew what was happening (as in I finished it quicker than I anticipated…).

The characters were all fascinating in their own right, and I was fascinated by them all. In fact some of them I wanted a bit more backstory too because it became apparent that they would remember so much more of the ‘normal’ world as it were than the one that they inhabited now, which was why towards the end I liked reading more about Clark’s life and the way that the plague affected him as well as the other personal juggernaut of losing his closest friend. It also seemed fitting that it was him that ended with, although the ending caught me off guard and I was left with wanting more, it also felt like it had come full circle. I will say that it was an ending that I was satisfied with, even if I did have a million questions as to where the characters were going, and it’s rare that I say something ended in a way that was satisfying. I’ve been jaded by a lot of endings when it comes to book.

Kirsten was an interesting protagonist because she was almost a nothing character in the beginning and then she was the main gateway into the rest of the story. I liked the fact that all she really seemed to have to tether her to the old world was this vague memory of Arthur and the words of Shakespeare. Her character was so well written by St John Mandel and there were hints of the trauma that was the first few years of the fall without ever going into explicit detail about them. It was the unknown and the fact that the reader had to effectively fill in the blanks there that made it all the better and more engaging. The interview segments that somehow echoed the ‘normal’ celebrity world and something that Kirsten was so fascinated by throughout whilst also giving some more information and context to the world that she lived in now were stunningly crafted and liked them as a way of moving the story forward because it was this weird blending of the two in a place where the two were so separate.

The prophet was also a fascinating character, especially when the puzzle pieces aligned and the reader realised who it was and could see why they were the way that they were and even to some extent sympathise with them. The prophet, the more you read about what happened to Clark in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak, is so easily the other side of the coin to Kristen and the way they have navigated through the demise of society. The complete contrast between the two is part of what makes elements of this book so great.

Full disclosure, not entirely sure I cared all that much about Jeevan…? But then at the same time he works as a great contrast to Arthur. Arthur the man who finally realised that he was unhappy and wanted to do something about it and then it all went to shit and then Jeevan who had no real purpose that he could see until the world went to shit. So yeah, kind of wouldn’t have noticed if he wasn’t there post the opening, kind of appreciated him.

Okay, and I will keep this brief (and believe me, it will be a struggle), Shakespeare. The use of Shakespeare in this book I feel is important. I mean I feel this way about literature in general and a lot of great authors had a huge impact on society, but Shakespeare is kind of the one ya know? Like he’s the one that somehow still manages to stay relevant even in a modern society. The fact that it is his plays that they use to try and inject some kind of joy and happiness (I mean A Midsummer Night’s Dream is mental) into this destitute world just seems to illustrate that. He is the common thread and some source of comfort and reminder of the old world that can exist in this barren landscape because the stories are always going to remain relatively universal…and end Shakespeare talk.

Final thing, the imagery created by St John Mandel is divine. She really builds up this vivid image of what a world where chaos descended really quickly would look like and sustains it. Which I know sounds obvious, but it was in the little things. Like in the final pages where they were walking up to the airport and they had to navigate the abandoned cars that had been there for twenty years. It wasn’t even something I had thought of (obviously…) but it drew you straight back into the fact that this was a different world which when you’re drawn into the world created by an author is sometimes easy to forget (or at least it is for me).

So basically, I strongly recommend this book and I am really glad that it came up at work one day because somehow we ended up talking about a zombie apocalypse.

4/5 stars.

Parentheses count: 8. See you tomorrow!

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Sophie

Sophie, twenty-something, avid reader, writer, really good at watching whole seasons of TV shows in one weekend and using 10 words where 5 will do, overzealous user of the ellipsis and parentheses, starts too many sentences with ‘and’ and ‘so’, living in a continual state of Wanderlust.

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