Station Eleven|Emily St John Mandel
Station Eleven
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER - An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse--the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity. Now an original series on HBO Max. Over one million copies sold

Kirsten Raymonde will never forget the night Arthur Leander, the famous Hollywood actor, had a heart attack on stage during a production of King Lear. That was the night when a devastating flu pandemic arrived in the city, and within weeks, civilization as we know it came to an end.

Twenty years later, Kirsten moves between the settlements of the altered world with a small troupe of actors and musicians. They call themselves The Traveling Symphony, and they have dedicated themselves to keeping the remnants of art and humanity alive. But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who will threaten the tiny band's existence. And as the story takes off, moving back and forth in time, and vividly depicting life before and after the pandemic, the strange twist of fate that connects them all will be revealed.

Look for Emily St. John Mandel's bestselling new novel, Sea of Tranquility


  • ISBN-13: 9780385353304
  • ISBN-10: 0385353308
  • Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
  • Publish Date: September 2014
  • Dimensions: 8.52 x 6.1 x 1.25 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.25 pounds
  • Page Count: 352

Creating beauty amid the ashes

BookPage Fiction Top Pick, September 2014

The end of the world might seem like an odd time to care about music and art; why worry about Shakespeare when civilization has collapsed? But in Canadian writer Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, it seems perfectly plausible that a Traveling Symphony would cross the wasteland that exists 20 years after most of the world’s population has died from a flu epidemic. They perform in parking lots, traveling from settlement to settlement and raiding long-abandoned houses for costumes. The musicians care for each other like family and work to hone their craft, because as Mandel writes early in this suspenseful and haunting novel: “What was lost in the collapse: almost everything, almost everyone, but there is still so much beauty.”

The narrative moves back and forth in time—before the collapse and after, introducing and reintroducing characters at different moments in their lives. This nonlinear structure contributes to the novel’s quick (and addictive) pace. A Hollywood actor dies during a production of King Lear, then the man who tried to revive him attempts to save himself from the quickly spreading flu. Kirsten, a child actor in Lear, survives the sickness and grows up to join the Traveling Symphony. A dangerous prophet gains power, and a British expat builds a museum of artifacts from the world before the collapse. Somehow, these disparate threads nest and connect, often returning to an exquisite graphic novel that links several of the storylines.

Though apocalyptic societies in literature may seem a bit tired, Station Eleven feels like something special and fresh: a story that occasionally has the adrenaline of The Hunger Games, bolstered by gorgeous sentences and complex characters who mourn for the fallen world, yet find joy in what remains. After playing Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Kirsten reflects on “the state of suspension that always came over her at the end of performances, a sense of having flown very high and landed incompletely, her soul pulling upward out of her chest.” Upon finishing Mandel’s wonderful novel, readers will know the feeling.

RELATED CONTENT: Read a Q&A with Emily St. John Mandel about Station Eleven.


This article was originally published in the September 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.