Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

In Toronto, child actress Kirsten Raymonde watches on in shock as Hollywood actor Arthur Leander dies on stage in front of her from a heart attack. Only one audience member, Jeevan Choudury, attempts first aid, and is unsuccessful. These events should be tabloid news within the next day but by the next day most people from the audience are dead. By the end of the fortnight, 99% of the world’s population has been wiped out in a deadly pandemic that sweeps across continents.

Only a few survive, among them Kirsten and Jeevan, and those that are left face a bleak existence, alone, fighting for survival. Kirsten becomes part of a travelling Symphony, touring and performing a range of Shakespeare plays to settlements of survivors. However, not every settlement is as safe as it may at first appear.

The story weaves between Year 15, Year 20 and flashbacks from the outbreak and before the pandemic, following the connections of a range of characters to the actor who died onstage. Mandel crafts the story well and as readers we are followed by a sense of threat and danger throughout the story – from the panic of the flu outbreak to the sinister Prophet and his followers.

I absolutely loved this story, it evokes a lot of empathy, as well as really making the reader consider how fragile many everyday things that we base our lives on are: electricity, antibiotics  the Internet, social media, travel. My only criticism would be that I wanted more: more information about how Kirsten survived; more detail about the Prophet; what happens next at the end of the novel?

Although (dare I hope?) maybe it is wide open for a sequel…

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‘Girl on the Run’ Jane Costello

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When it comes to films, I’m a huge fan of rom-coms. I’m too much of a wimp for horror films and conspiracy thrillers leave me feeling paranoid, but a good rom-com is often exactly what I need to lose myself for a few hours.

No surprises then that I also enjoy a good rom-com novel every now and then. This story is very like Sophie Kinsella’s writing in content and style. It follows a protagonist called Abigail who runs a successful small business but at the expense of her personal life and fitness. When she finds out that one of her employees has MS she offers to run a half-marathon to raise money for charity… the only trouble being that Abigail can barely run for a mile, let alone a half – marathon.

One of the charms of a book like this is that the love story involved is entirely predictable: you don’t need to think too deeply, there are no complex twists and turns. It’s just good fun to read and I sped through the pages, feeling 100% in support of the main character.

A book doesn’t always need a serious message; just being fun to read is enough.