Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I listened to the audio version of Station Eleven, read by Kirsten Potter.
I had high expectations going in, as the book came recommended by friends and in reviews. But especially on the heels of reading The Girl with All the Gifts, by M.R. Carey, which blew my socks off, I found Station Eleven to be a bit of a let down.
What you should know, if you’re thinking of reading it:
Station Eleven is much more a story about people’s lives intertwining, than it is about exploring their lives in a specific, imagined, post-epidemic future.  This is not a bad thing, but what it means is that Station Eleven is
more a work of fiction, than it is a work of science fiction or suspense.
However, this said, Station Eleven left me curiously unmoved, feeling kind of flat. The structure of the novel, which includes looping flashbacks and perspective shifts, didn’t work for me. I believe the author meant to use this structure in order to show how everyone’s lives “interlock,” which I believe she mentions at one point. But the way this was done merely served to keep me from identifying strongly with anyone in the novel.
Also, rather than using this flashback/perspective shift structure to reveal new opinions and viewpoints, the author instead often ended up repeating the same facts multiple times. For example, several different characters described the same, unusual crossbow. The repetition added a Groundhog-Day element to the story, and was not necessary to clarify what was going on.
One clearly spelled-out theme in Station Eleven is the Star Trek quote, “survival is insufficient.” This quote is written on the caravans of the traveling symphony, which performs for the survivors of the post-apocalyptic world of the novel.
Unfortunately, the ideas presented regarding art and survival never crystallized in a powerful way. Station Eleven ended without a sense of completion, or of something new shared, or realized.
Although Station Eleven contained some beautiful scenes, it left me ultimately uninspired.

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The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

 

The Swallow: A Ghost StoryThe Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Swallow: A Ghost Story, is such a wonderful, special book that I would pretty much recommend it to anyone.
This novel by Charis Cotter tells the story of the friendship between two 12-year-old girls living in Toronto in 1963. Polly is outgoing, bubbly, and passionate, with a love for books and chocolate, and a huge, busy family. Rose is introverted, pale, quiet, and loves to sing. Rose lives in a house adjoining Polly’s, and spends her time more or less alone, as her parents work long hours, and their housekeeper, Kendrick is a silent, brooding presence.
One afternoon, the two girls meet each other unexpectedly (in a very funny scene, which I won’t give away) and a very special friendship develops between these two seemingly opposite, but both, lonely, souls.
What follows is a story that is hard to describe, part mystery, part drama, part ghost story, but ultimately, a tale about friendship that transcends time and place.
In The Swallow, Charis Cotter has created something magical, something ineffable. Her story contains something that is more than the sum of its parts, or of its words and plot. The Swallow walks this fine line, like the crack between two worlds, or the mysterious space between life and death. The beautiful book cover captures the feel of this enchanting, ghostly, sad yet joyous novel perfectly.
The Swallow is the best of books, a middle grade novel that will appeal to adults as well as children, and a book that takes its readers into the creative space of imagination, in which anything is possible.

I received an advanced review copy of The Swallow: A Ghost Story, from the publisher via NetGalley.

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