Station Eleven #BookReview #BriFri
Welcome to British Isles Friday! British Isles Friday is a weekly event for sharing all things British and Irish — reviews, photos, opinions, trip reports, guides, links, resources, personal stories, interviews, and research posts. Join us each Friday to link your British and Irish themed content and to see what others have to share. The link list is at the bottom of this post. Pour a cup of tea or lift a pint and join our link party!
Last week, I shared news about the unconventional casting of an upcoming adaptation of David Copperfield’s story. Sim shared the film trailer for The Favourite, about Queen Anne, and a book to read before the film opens in November.
We had a bunch of book reviews — so much British-themed literature!
- The Matrimonial Advertisement by Mimi Matthews from Heather (plus giveaway before 9/18)
- The Mistress of Pennington’s by Rachel Brimble from Heather
- The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton from Tina
- Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef from Becky
- Come Away with Me by Maddie Please from Gaele
- The Serial Dater’s Shopping List by Morgen Bailey from Gaele
- The Stylist by Rosie Nixon from Gaele
- The Phantom Tree by Nicola Cornick from Gaele
Book: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Genre: Adult dystopian novel
Publication date: 2014
Source: e-book borrowed from library
Summary: A virulent strain of swine flu kills nearly the entire population of humans on earth. In only a few days, newspapers quit publishing and television stations quit broadcasting. The electric grid fails in a month or so. Gasoline goes stale (who knew?) and no longer powers vehicles or generators after a couple of years. Pockets of humans handle the changes in a variety of ways over the next twenty years. A group of traveling musicians and actors witness the many ways that people cope, as individuals and communities, while they follow a motto from Star Trek: Voyager — “Survival is insufficient.” They preserve the art of performance with orchestral music and Shakespeare’s plays.
Thoughts: Station Eleven is, perhaps, a bit of a stretch for a British Isles Friday post, since it’s by a Canadian author and is set, mostly, in Toronto and Michigan around the Great Lakes. Shakespeare’s plays, especially King Lear, are such an important part of the plot, that I wanted to share it here.
They’d performed more modern plays sometimes in the first few years, but what was startling, what no one would have anticipated, was that audiences seemed to prefer Shakespeare to their other theatrical offerings.
And, this description of a particular performance:
What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still such beauty. Twilight in the altered world, a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a parking lot in the mysteriously named town of St. Deborah by the Water, Lake Michigan shining a half mile away. Kirsten as Titania, a crown of flowers on her close-cropped hair, the jagged scar on her cheekbone half-erased by candlelight. The audience is silent. Sayid, circling her in a tuxedo that Kirsten found in a dead man’s closet near the town of East Jordan: “Tarry, rash wanton. Am I not thy lord?”
“Then I must be thy lady.” Lines of a play written in 1594, the year London’s theaters reopened after two seasons of plague. Or written possibly a year later, in 1595, a year before the death of Shakespeare’s only son. Some centuries later on a distant continent, Kirsten moves across the stage in a cloud of painted fabric, half in rage, half in love. She wears a wedding dress that she scavenged from a house near New Petoskey, the chiffon and silk streaked with shades of blue from a child’s watercolor kit.
The author plays with time in this novel in fun ways — we move from the moment of the collapse, to times that are decades before and decades after, and many times in between. The disorientation contributes to the tension in the story.
Appeal: I seem to be drawn to dystopia, right now, and find it oddly comforting. There are stories to be lived even after the end of everything as we know it. I know that because authors write those stories for us. I was drawn to Station Eleven because of the traveling troupe, but I also connected with the themes of fame, art, and survival.
What other dystopian novels do you recommend?
Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulas (?) is my favorite near-dystopian. It is being rereleased this fall because it is sort of happening in the world now.
World War Z is a favorite because of the format of interviews after a disaster.
I finished editing a 3 or 4 part dystopian series not that long ago- it’s not my favorite genre to read, but the correlations and the scope for imagination often bring a ton of ‘current feel’ to stories set far away. I just reviewed one that was set in post-Katrina New Orleans where the elements the author brought in to ‘save’ the city and the myths used mixed in a wonderful sense of plausible in highly improbable situations.
But – I found a winner this week – it plays into my weird obsession with the sharp self-deprecating humor from the BBC – It’s called W1A, and stars Hugh Bonneville – it’s essentially a ‘mockumentary’ about the BBC’s efforts to ‘prove relevant’ before their royal charter comes up for renewal in 2016. Poking fun at the ‘why a BBC’ and just how many people are perceived to say many words that mean nothing – I’m halfway through and adoring it .
I loved this book, although I generally shy away from dystopian novels as they always seem to feature serial killers or mutant rats! This book shows the panic during the epidemic, and then perhaps wisely jumps to 25 years ahead when society is starting re-establish itself, with only veiled references to the gory aftermath of the plague. It was interesting to see what the author thought would survive, and what would not. I will be interested to see what other dystopian novels are recommended.
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