A (Shakespearean) Ode to Station Eleven

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If you’re a lover of books, have an interest in dystopian fiction, like Shakespeare, or frankly just like to read, you must go buy this book immediately.

I’m a relatively obsessive reader, and honestly, two years after I read it for the first time Station Eleven remains the best book I have ever read.

Right from the beginning, it was immediately enthralling. Following the death of Arthur Leander and the night that the Georgian Flu arrives in Toronto, Station Eleven takes readers on a journey before and after civilization as we know it has ended in the wake of a devastating pandemic. It follows the stories of various people connected to Arthur Leander, some of whom are his friends and family, some of whom were just there in the Elgin Theater when he died, all of whom are struggling to find beauty and meaning in a very changed world.

There’s a few things that you need to know about this book:

1) If you love literature and Shakespeare – pick this book up. The parallels between the life and plays of Shakespeare and this imagined world of the future are so striking. As St. John Mandel alludes to, Shakespeare’s life was defined by plague, and now these characters are living in a world equally affected. The symmetry between the two is remarkable.

2) Nothing has ever made me feel more nostalgic for the present. Every time I read this book (which, I grant you, is about every six months) I come out with so much gratitude for the little things I take for granted every day. The fact that I can pick up my phone and call my husband while we’re both at work. The fact that we just booked a flight to Israel for two weeks. We’re so fortunate to live in this ultra-connected world. And the thing that made me so enthralled in this book is that it really shows that despite so many people feel like we’re part of this very machine-driven, impersonal world – the minute those people disappear, the rest of civilization disappears with it.

3) Despite the fact that it’s classified as a post-apocalyptic book, it’s unlike any other book I’ve ever read in that genre. It’s about people finding beauty and meaning in their new lives, about the love of art and Shakespeare. And what I love most about this is that this book is about a world that is awakening in many ways, 15+ years after the Georgian Flu. And (at least from our perspective as the readers) what’s one of the first things to come back? Art. Plays. Music. Because those are the things that in many ways represent the best of us, the best our society has to offer.

This book is in so many ways a love letter to the world that we live in, beautiful, hopeful, challenging and supremely engaging. Two years on, I have yet to find a book that has dethroned it’s position as my favourite book on the shelves, and the best book I have ever read.

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