Station Eleven

Station Eleven

Book - 2014 | First Canadian edition
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An audacious, darkly glittering novel about art, fame and ambition set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, from the author of three highly acclaimed previous novels.

One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time-from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe known as the Travelling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains-this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet. Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame and the beauty of the world as we know it.

Publisher: Toronto, Ontario : Harper Avenue/HarperCollins Canada, [2014]
Edition: First Canadian edition
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9781443434867
Branch Call Number: FIC Mande
Characteristics: 333 pages ; 23 cm
Alternative Title: Station 11


From Library Staff

IdeaLab_Mandy Jan 07, 2015

Post apocalyptic world with a twist. Nearly everyone dies, but that doesn't mean culture has to die with them. Kirsten was a child actor when the pandemic hit, and 20 years later she travels with a troupe performing Shakespeare. The story flips between the outbreak in Toronto and the survivors st... Read More »

From the critics

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Nov 10, 2020

I found this novel very well-written and I enjoyed reading it very much. I particularly liked the ways the stories kept overlapping and connecting and I did not feel any of these connections were obvious or foreshadowed. I loved being surprised.

Sep 25, 2020

"All three caravans of the Travelling Symphony are labelled as such, THE TRAVELLING SYMPHONY lettered in white of both sides, but the lead caravan carries an additional line of text:

Because survival is insufficient"

Aug 09, 2020

This book was def overhyped by the time I got around to it. I'm not feeling the same connection to Covid, I don't worry about my society collapsing, also the limited time spent on people actually being sick make it feel like a it was immediately over. It was very interesting at first but as time went on I was getting too much unnecessary info and not enough explanation of's like so many things were forgotten and never coming back. Maybe it's on purpose but it's no less frustrating.
Things I did like: people checking their memories against each other (light in the fridge, chocolate chip cookies)
Did not like: how things are connected but not connected enough, and the treatment of women, even though most of the violence happens outside the main story.

Jul 19, 2020


jcljessicaj Jul 07, 2020

We listened to this on a recent road-trip. It was a good middle ground for my partner and I who have different taste in genres - I like romance and fantasy; he likes noir mystery. We really enjoyed it - especially currently living in a pandemic. We were captivated by the characters and various story lines. It was so fascinating to see them intersect and fun to guess at what was to come. We paused it multiple times while listening to discuss certain parts or give our theories for where a certain character's story would go. Listening to the book gave us the sense of living in the story. We loved it.

JCLEmmaF Jun 22, 2020

An incredibly surreal, gorgeous, and devastating experience to accidentally pick this up during a pandemic, read in quarantine. Unforgettable, really.

Jun 21, 2020

When I downloaded this nearly 18 months ago I did not realize a specific part was missing. After reading the book (my copy) I finally figured out what is missing. Now I'm on the long waitlist to reload. IMO there are several points where the author dropped the ball, however, most importantly it was her first book. Maybe the editor could have pointed out various 'issues'. That said, this has become a favorite read/listen and I feel there is much to be examined, pondered. I've returned to it frequently and found new aspects I can take further. Age and experience has a lot to do with acceptance, understanding. Don't dismiss it out of hand as it seems several reviews have done. I've heard Scots whisky is an acquired taste as opposed to bourbon, as is haggis or curry. This has become an acquired taste for me.

Jun 18, 2020

I really liked "Station Eleven" even though I read it in the middle of the current COVID-19 pandemic and that did make parts of the story hit a little closer to the bone. The characters were likeable, which is really important to me as a reader. I don't have much patience with novels full of characters I don't care about at all. I noticed a few comments here about how the ending was great. For me it fell a little flat and that's why I am going with 4 stars instead of 5. I felt like I would have liked to read a little more about the conversations that happened between Clark and Kirsten, but they are mostly left implied.

Jun 13, 2020

I did not finish this book because I could not believe that two years after a pandemic that leaves the population with no gasoline or electricity there would still be much of an entertainment industry. The lack of being able to move food around the country would require that those who did not starve to death return to a completely agrarian lifestyle which would leave very little time for an entertainment industry.

IndyPL_LoriO May 08, 2020

In Station Eleven, a deadly pandemic strikes, and civilization as we know it collapses. The timeline isn’t linear, which sometimes bothers me in a novel, but it’s done so well in this book. There’s plenty of jumping around to different characters and time periods (pre- and post- pandemic), but I was deeply invested in each storyline and it was clear how everything fit together, so it didn’t get confusing. There are so many strong themes that lend themselves to discussion. The ways we process trauma, what it means to survive, and the search for purpose in life are just a few that resonated with me. I will definitely re-read this one.

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Add a Quote
Jul 13, 2017

"[...] everyone knows when you've got a terrible marriage, it's like having bad breath, you get close enough to a person and it's obvious."

Apr 14, 2017

“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees.”

Apr 14, 2017

“They spend all their lives waiting for their lives to begin.”

Apr 14, 2017

“I stood looking over my damaged home and tried to forget the sweetness of life on Earth.”

Apr 14, 2017

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

Apr 14, 2017

“It was gorgeous and claustrophobic. I loved it and I always wanted to escape.”

Apr 14, 2017

“She had never entirely let go of the notion that if she reached far enough with her thoughts she might find someone waiting, that if two people were to cast their thoughts outward at the same moment they might somehow meet in the middle.”

Apr 14, 2017

“No more Internet. No more social media, no more scrolling through litanies of dreams and nervous hopes and photographs of lunches, cries for help and expressions of contentment and relationship-status updates with heart icons whole or broken, plans to meet up later, pleas, complaints, desires, pictures of babies dressed as bears or peppers for Halloween. No more reading and commenting on the lives of others, and in so doing, feeling slightly less alone in the room. No more avatars.”

Apr 14, 2017

“No one ever thinks they’re awful, even people who really actually are. It’s some sort of survival mechanism.”

Apr 14, 2017

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

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Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability
Apr 13, 2020

frenchhornistba thinks this title is suitable for 15 years and over

Feb 03, 2019

FaithR thinks this title is suitable for 14 years and over


Add a Summary
melwyk Sep 25, 2014

One snowy night in Toronto, an actor playing King Lear drops dead on stage. Only 24 hours later, most of the city is dead from a rapidly spreading virus. The few survivors find, as the electricity and water stop, as the internet drops out, that the virus has killed 99% of the world's population.

The question arises: how to live now? In Emily St John Mandel's unusual approach to a post-apocalyptic novel, the survivors of this modern plague retain their longing for community and civilization, trying their best to live in pockets of humanity across North America.

Early on, we meet the Travelling Symphony, a group of musicians and actors who travel caravan-style around the countryside, performing Shakespeare and symphonies to the scattered inhabitants of tiny settlements. As Kirsten, a main character, has tattooed on her arm: Survival is insufficient.

However, this symphony is also heavily armed, as chaos does exist in the new world. There are those in this rough life who rely on violence, including an eerie Prophet who controls a town the Travelling Symphony rolls into at the start of the story. This Prophet and his followers will pursue them for the rest of the book, adding an edge of suspense.

The story weaves back and forth from apocalyptic present to the past, revealing ways in which all the characters are connected. The constant return to 'before' results in a sense of nostalgia for what we haven't yet lost. Mandel points out precious elements of daily life that her characters have lost forever – the taste of an orange, the feel of air conditioning, ice cream, the ability to connect with one another by phone.

Throughout the book we also encounter Dr. Eleven, a scientist in a graphic novel that Kirsten has carried with her over the many years of post-apocalyptic life. The two volumes she owns of this tiny graphic novel sustain her. Dr. Eleven lives on a satellite, Station Eleven, after the earth is destroyed, and his story reflects her own. This imaginary graphic novel is fleshed out so wonderfully that I hope it is only a matter of time before Mandel releases a real-life edition.

This is a beautiful book; imaginative and full of complex characters, it is a post-apocalyptic novel that combines danger with beauty, sadness with hope. Mandel clearly believes that there is something good in humanity that will endure.


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