Although it seems a bit trite to recommend Station Eleven on this site (I know it was the latest book club choice- I’m late to the party!) and in a pandemic generally (I feel like its been on every ‘what to read in a pandemic’ book list), I am aggressively recommending this book to anyone looking for a recommendation (and even occasionally to those who aren’t- its that good).
For anyone who has somehow missed the hype, Station Eleven is about a pandemic, the fictional but very deadly Georgian Flu, which kills 99% of humanity. The novel is centred around Arthur Leander, an aging film star who dies on stage the very night the Georgian flu first lands in Toronto, where Arthur’s play is being performed. Despite Arthur being the unifying thread, we don’t get a lot of his perspective- instead we get glimpses of the pre- and post-pandemic life from a number of people who have known or interacted with Arthur- his ex-wife, his old university friend, the would-be paramedic who tries to save his life and the child actress who was onstage with him when he dies. The last character, Kirsten, is likely the closest thing to a ‘main character’- she survives the initial waves of the pandemic, and we catch up with her when she is in her late twenties, roaming with an itinerant band of musicians and actors through what is left of ‘civilization’ in the Great Lakes area.
I can’t stop thinking about this book. It is haunting and melancholic and yet somehow hopeful. It treats its characters well- they feel real and like friends you would want. I am still struck by their resistance and persistence, their ability to simultaneously adapt and accept, albeit in different ways.
Although Station Eleven is ‘about a pandemic’, it is really about the ‘impacts of a pandemic on a group of people’, their memories of before and after, and how they adjust to living in the ‘after’. Another one I wanted to reread immediately on finishing- one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.