What Station Eleven is about and the plot of Station Eleven are two very different things. The plot can be quite alienating and may put readers off but don’t let it. A flu wipes out 99% of the population. Twenty years later, we join a band of actors and musicians that perform concerts and Shakespeare to the survivors. However, the book is about art versus survival.
This is a book about how six characters are connected before and after the pandemic. Before the flu, the famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage playing King Lear. Everyone seems to be connected to Arthur but they don’t know it. They all react differently to the pandemic. The reader see them before and after, after all “we are not ourselves when nature, being oppress’d, commands the mind to suffer with the body”. In Station Eleven, it is society and order that is repressed. Our conscience suffers and the lines between right and wrong are blurred.
‘Survival is insufficient’ is quoted a lot throughout the book and each time it has a different meaning. It questions whether it is important for the human race to survive when a self-proclaimed ‘prophet’ is using force to take what he wants. It is more important for art to survive? My younger self studying Macbeth at GCSE is rolling her eyes. Music yes, Shakespeare not so much. This book is, in my mind, worryingly accurate. In the face of a pandemic and the fall of civilisation, violence will reign. But I hope that brave souls will keep the word of Shakespeare and delights of music very much alive.