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Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

During Covid-19 and isolation, I became obsessed with pandemic/eschatological narratives (I’ve always enjoyed them, but now I simply had to read them). This book, Station Eleven, kept appearing on various lists as one of the best. Now I know why. 

When the Georgia Flu erupts all around the world, decimating the population and ending civilization as we know it, life is irrevocably altered. Fast forward 20 years, and a roving band of Shakespearean actors wander the small outposts of people that have survived, performing and bringing brief moments of joy and escapism into their lives. But when the troupe perform at one particular outpost, they encounter a man the likes of which they’ve not yet met. Not only does he pose a danger to them, but to the world slowly emerging from catastrophe…

This is not like the usual pandemic/end of world books I’ve read. For a start, it is so lyrical and almost haunting in its prose and, secondly, unlike other pandemic novels, it barely deals with the medical or social implications of the outbreak except in relation to its impact on various characters. Segueing from the known past and the initial stages of the pandemic, the fear and desperation, to the uncertain future and implicit risks but also banality of the everyday, Mandel creates an authentic but haunting tale of humanity at its best and worst. I couldn’t put it down, and found it surprised, delighted and moved me at every turn. Highly recommended.  

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