So every now and then I read a book that is so utterly brilliant I want to stand on tall buildings and shout loudly at people that they should read it. This is one of this times.
Emily St. John Mandel’s dystopian novel, Station Eleven, was published last year to great success and acclaim. The book opens during a production King Lear. Hollywood actor Arthur Leander dies on stage, while a child actress watches from the wings. That night, a deadly virus spreads through North America and the rest of the world, and the majority of the human population is wiped out within weeks. Technology and governments subside, communities break down, civilisation collapses. The book then oscillates between the worlds before and after civilisation, between the lives of Arthur Leander and the people he knew, and the aftermath of the epidemic. Two decades after civilisation breaks down, we follow Kirstin, the children actress, now twenty-six years old and living with the Travelling Symphony, a theatre company who tour the leftover communicates, preforming Shakespeare plays – ‘because survival is insufficient.’
So, Shakespeare in the face of the end of the world. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed.