Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on September 9th 2014
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Every now and then I’ll read a book that is so widely read (and loved—it was the Book Blogger Top Picks winner for Adult Fiction) that throwing another review into space feels a little silly. Even though it just came out three months ago, by the time I picked up Station Eleven I wanted to talk about it more than just sharing my veiled, spoiler-free opinion. So, let’s give it a go!
I’m not big on the whole, “Which item would you put in the Museum of Civilization?” type question. I’m more interested in sharing and even politely debating opinions. Though Station Eleven offers endless discussion topics, here are a few to get us started:
- How did you feel about the way the novel described the fall of society? Was it believable? Did you feel you were given enough or too much information?
- Did you find the shifts between pre and post-apocalypse to be an effective storytelling technique?
- Jeevan stands out as a central character who ends up disconnected from the overall narrative. Why do you think Mandel chose to devote so much space to him?
- Were you satisfied with the end? Was everything too neat or untidy for you?
- Why do you think Station Eleven has been so successful when other novels in the same vein have struggled to catch on with literary fiction readers?
From here on out, the discussion will get spoilery (including the comments), so fair warning!
- I constantly struggle with backstories and world building in post-apocalyptic novels. 99% of the time it’s the reason I can’t get behind a book, usually because I find the fall isn’t believable or hasn’t been explained in a satisfying way. I think some authors feel they need to come up with a series of complicated events that lead to a collapse, but the simplicity of the super flu in Station Eleven just worked for me and I found it totally plausible.
- I was a little worried that I wouldn’t want to return to pre-apocalypse after being introduced to the characters of the Traveling Symphony, but I found that my first reading spurt (I ended up reading close to 200 pages in one sitting!) came at the start of Arthur’s flashback. I loved the way Mandel threaded time together and used the jumps to reveal connections in the plot.
- Though I had predicted most of the character connections early on, I thought for sure Mandel would surprise us somehow and further knit Jeevan into Kirsten’s story at the end, especially after catching us up with his life in the south. I had a library copy, so I can’t go back and peek at that section, but I feel like re-reading it might reveal a bit more that I might have overlooked.
- I was quite happy with the end. It felt hopeful without being too tidy.
- For me, the key to Station Eleven was that it didn’t focus on the downfall of society or create a complicated set of rules and regulations in a post-apocalyptic future. Instead, it centered on the lives of the characters, which came together to move the plot forward. The setting became a backdrop rather than a device that held the novel together.
Feel free to talk about some, none or all of these topics—they were just a few things that came to mind for me!