LVI book group: Station Eleven

LVI book group: Station Eleven

22nd January, 2016

AcademicSixth Form

On Monday 18 January, the Lower Sixth Book Group met to discuss Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel. Here are some of the members’ thoughts about the book:

‘Station Eleven’ took the conventional post-apocalyptic tale and created a fascinating new twist and divergence from the classic stereotypes. The lucid calm of the lexis permeates into the characters themselves – creating an almost uncanny sense of tranquility within what should have been a panic ridden situation of global disaster. The character development was interesting: it was interesting to see how de-sensitised people became to the events of the novel and how this was reflected in the readers themselves: we seem to adopt an equally callous temperament as the story unfolds. Overall a very different and intriguing read.

This is a genuinely innovative take on the tropes of post-apocalyptic novels. Instead of the usual flesh-eating zombies roaming the deserted cities, we are presented with an end of the world pastoral where the preservation of Art rather than the brutality of survival is the new priority. A clever jigsaw narrative which spans two time frames, this is a page turner and one that makes us re-evaluate our own relationship with Art and culture. Despite the odd narrative contrivance, it is worth a read and deepens our sense of what really matters to us as human beings. Star Trek was right: “survival [really] is insufficient.”

It was really nice to read a book of the post-apocalyptic genre that doesn’t involve the extreme and vividly described killing of other people. It was quite gentle in its general approach to the telling of the story but when someone did die or was killed, the effect on you was quite poignant and harrowing. I really enjoyed reading all the back stories to the characters and how eventually the jigsaw came together.

‘Station Eleven’ is an interesting (if not unique) take on the genre of post-apocalyptic literature.

The concept of humanity prioritizing the preservation of art and culture was fascinating; not least in the book’s own blend of parallels with Shakespeare and Star Trek! This formed a promising picture of decimated society: “survival is insufficient”

Whilst I didn’t enjoy the book as such, I did appreciate its ability to provoke questions about the different choices made in extreme circumstances and to reject its own epigraph, “there is too much world”.

I quite liked ‘Station Eleven’ and enjoyed its lightness. I found the different take on the popular post-apocalyptic scenario interesting and refreshing, if not a little random. I also quite enjoyed seeing the changes before and after the collapse. However, I felt there were possibly too many characters which meant the main narrative got a little lost and messy. Despite that, the ending was quite good and I felt all the loose ends were tied together neatly, if perhaps slightly unrealistically. Overall, I did enjoy ‘Station Eleven’.

Perhaps the book should have made the reader work a little harder? It seemed too concerned at times with the elaboration of the plot and shifting its strands between past and present for rather telegraphed comparisons. I liked its insistence on the value of preserving works of art, however, and the way it resisted excess violence.

The group will meet again in February to discuss A Slip of the Keyboard by Terry Pratchett. It is hoped that pupils from St George’s will join us for this meeting.

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