Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenOn the Cover: One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor’s early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theater troupe known as The Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor’s first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Published: 2014


The Review:

In Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel presents us with a question: if a virus wiped out 98% of the human population, what would happen to us? The answer she provides is both fascinating and eerily realistic. Unlike other dystopians, Station Eleven settles into that unknown time period, after the fall but before humans rise again, in a setting that is utterly recognizable, and examines not only how humans survive, but how we push beyond surviving into truly living.

The format of the book is not linear, but I really enjoyed how St John Mandel crafted this story. We meet several characters in different places, living in different times both before and after the dissolution of society. As we circle back and forth to the different characters the connections between them become apparent. I grew to love this style and I enjoyed discovering how each story was connected to the next.

Station Eleven Estonian Edition

I found that this book just sucks you in. The settings are absolutely alive, and the way the characters interact with the settings really makes you take notice, and it makes you notice things about the characters too. But it’s also the way the characters are able to find beauty in their surroundings, no matter where they are, that spoke to how beautiful this book really is. I fell in love with Station Eleven slowly, but completely.

The words that continuously come to mind when thinking about this novel are a quiet elegance. This book is not flashy. It does not grab at you with a speeding plot or sinister twists. But it does introduce beautiful characters to connect with, a rich landscape, and a journey across space and time that speaks to what it means to be human. I cannot say how much I loved this novel and I sincerely recommend it.

Rating: 5 / 5

Station Eleven German Edition

Quotations:

“Two days out of St. Deborah by the Water, the Symphony came upon a burnt-out resort town. A fire had swept through some years ago and now the town was a meadow with black ruins standing. A sea of pink flowers had risen between the shards of buildings. The charred shells of hotels stood along the lakeshore and a brick clock tower was still standing a few blocks inland, the clock stopped forever at eight fifteen.” p 207

“The night sky was brighter than it had been. On the clearest night the stars were a cloud of light across the breadth of the sky, extravagant in their multitudes. […] One of the greatest scientific questions of Galileo’s time was whether the Milky Way was made up of individual stars. Impossible to imagine this ever having been in question in the age of electricity, but the night sky was a wash of light in Galileo’s age, and it was a wash of light now. The era of light pollution had come to an end. The increasing brilliance meant the grid was failing, darkness pooling over the earth. I was here for the end of electricity. The thought sent shivers up Clark’s spine.” p 251

“The signs for the airport led them away from the lake, out of downtown, up into residential streets of wood-frame houses. A few of the roofs had collapsed up here, most under the weight of fallen trees. In the morning light there was beauty in the decrepitude, sunlight catching the flowers that had sprung up through the gravel of long-overgrown driveways, mossy front porches turned brilliant green, a white blossoming bush alive with butterflies. This dazzling world.” p 297

The Great Escape: A Canadian Story – Ted Barris

the-great-escapeOn the Cover: On the night of March 24, 1944, 80 Commonwealth airmen crawled through a 336-foot-long tunnel and slipped into the forest beyond the wire of Stalag Luft III, a German POW compound near Sagan, Poland. The event became known as “The Great Escape,” an intricate breakout more than a year in the making, involving as many as 2,000 POWs working with extraordinary co-ordination, intelligence, and daring. Yet within a few days, all but three of the escapees were recaptured. Subsequently, fifty were murdered, cremated, and buried in a remote corner of the prison camp.

But most don’t know the real story behind The Great Escape. Now, on the eve of its 70th anniversary, Ted Barris writes of the key players in the escape attempt, those who got away, those who didn’t, and their families at home. Barris marshals groundbreaking research into a compelling firsthand account. For the first time, “The Great Escape: A Canadian Story” retells one of the most astonishing episodes in WWII directly through the eyes of those who experienced it.

Published: 2012

 


 

The Review:

The Great Escape: A Canadian Story takes an in-depth look at the Canadian role in the events of March 24, 1944. Yet what I found interesting about this book is that it is so much more than the Great Escape. The book covers time before the war, including brief histories on many of the key players and the events leading up to the men becoming prisoners of war. The book also follows those POWs past the Great Escape, through the end of the war and their tiring journey home. In between lies a gold mine of information, illuminating the life of a POW, activities in the compound, and the dozens of ingenious ways that POWs refurbished, retooled, and reengineered their surroundings to make life bearable and escape possible.

The opening chapters of the book provide a substantial amount of information. POW names, ranks, flight squadrons, and histories of Canadian roots all blur together. What surfaces from this deluge are individual stories of flight crews evacuating flaming bombers, stunning moments of men throwing themselves into the air or attempting to land their aircraft in any survivable way. Through the progression of the book, individual names begin to stand out, and by the end the book feels exactly as it should: like prisoners of war sitting with me and telling me their stories in their own voice.

This book is incredibly well researched, and I learned a great deal from the information contained within its pages. Barris is a champion for Canadian POWs and strives to tell their story with the greatest amount of respect and awe. The Great Escape: A Canadian Story is a humbling reading experience for Canadians and a wonderful historical resource for all.

Rating: 4 / 5