“Hell is the absence of the people you long for.”

What is this book about?

A very dangerous strain of swine-flu is sweeping over the earth while a small group of people gather at a stage production of King Lear. The story goes back and forth between the pre- and post-apocalyptic world, focusing on a group called the Travelling Symphony, a creepy guy called the prophet and a handful of people who were present during King Lear. The story is kicked into gear when Arthur, the actor playing King Lear, dies on stage and shortly after the entire world is in peril.

Why is it boring?

This is again one of those sneaky apocalypse stories that are not trying to be exciting, but are more interested in human nature. *squints eyes* I see what you are doing there… Can’t I just read Station Eleven, the comic book from within the book about Dr. Eleven and those people living under water? Now that sounded exciting!

Who would you recommend it to?

If you liked California by Edan Lepucki, definitely give this one a try. It deals with similar big ideas about humanity in a post-apocalyptic world, while trying to tell a small story. Emily St. John Mandel does a great job jumping back and forth in time, so if that tickles your fancy, pick it up. Again though, not a very action packed book about an apocalypse. So don’t go in with different expectations.

Why should I read it if it’s boring?!

The book was more exciting than I had imagined, although heed my earlier warning. Station Eleven focuses somewhat on the apocalypse itself and Mandel did a great job describing how strange and weird it must be that your whole life has suddenly and irreversibly changed. I also really liked the idea of a travelling symphony living by the words that survival is insufficient. They travel around a small part of Northern America and perform Shakespeare for small settlements they come across. But somehow I couldn’t really get into the action part of the story, involving the prophet who is a loony religious nut, marrying wives left and right and trying to repopulate the earth. Even when I found out who he was and what his road was to becoming who he is, it left me cold. I was much more interested in the people who stayed at an airport creating The Museum of Civilization and in seeing how people were getting by in the years following the fall of the modern world. Maybe I’m just a tough customer when it comes to apocalypse stories, but I think most gloss over the immediate aftermath much too quickly. THAT is the part I want to read about! I want to see what people do when the rug is pulled out from under them, not when they are starting to get back on their feet. But besides this personal gripe, Station Eleven is a good book, well written, thoughtful and very perceptive about human nature.

Rating: 3/5


Esmée de Heer is head honcho over at the Bored to Death book club website, writing the daily content and making sure the site stays up and running. She's one of the founding sisters of the book club and enjoys reading and giving unsolicited love advice.

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