I have been quietly dreading this moment all day because, to be honest, I have little to write about “Station Eleven” that is, in any way, original. So what do we have here? Sudden death at the theater, which, when you come to think about is a classic and dramatic way to start any story “He [Arthur Leander] cradled his his hand to his chest like a broken bird” (page 3, par 3) . Emily St. John (author) has jumped straight in to the circus ring and the characters jump around her, to the crack of her pen. The dramatic entree. O.K… Let me come down to earth!. A famous actor (Arthur Leander) gets a massive heart attack on stage while playing King Lear (there are worse ways to go!). An aspiring paramedic (Jeevan Chaudhary) (of note: “Chowdhury is a hereditary title of honor originating in the Indian subcontinent”..Wikipedia) .and a cardiologist leap to his aid and perform CPR upon him, but to no avail ( frustrated and ignoble impotence in the face of death). Arthur Leander gets wheeled away on a gurney and Jeevan “…it occurred to him that his role in this performance was done.”(page 6, par 3), remembers his girlfriend Laura, whom he had abandoned in the audience, in his fit of “misplaced” chivalry. (he knows that he has blown it with her…again!). As if to console himself, he finds a shocked and frightened, eight year-old girl (Kirsten Raymonde……remember the name!) on stage, and tries to comfort her (or himself). Anticlimax to the dramatic entree: Walking out of the Elgin theater, to the snow filled Yonge street in Toronto, Jeevan avoids the paparazzo “Until very recently Jeevan had been a paparazzo himself” (page 9, last para) and realizes that he has found his vocation in life (one man’s tragedy is another’s moment of self discovery) declares to one of his former fellow paparazzo “I want to do something [in life] that matters” (page 10, para 4). Jeevan “felt extravagantly, guiltly alive” (page 11, para 2) Jeevan needs to think and goes for a walkabout in the snow. So, eight pages into the story, we have a protagonist (Jeevan), a conflict (wanting to do the right thing with himself) and his (antagonist?) girlfriend who, by now has sent him a text message “I had a headache so I went home. Can you pick up milk”( Page 11, par 4) (translation: you messed up but I want you to come home…now!) Not bad! The narrator has painted a vivid backdrop in the first chapter. Chapter 2: The stage manager, a couple of actors and the makeup artist Goneril (also King Lear’s oldest daughter and a principal villain in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”) huddle together the theater’s bar. the chapter appears to be relatively insignificant ( will I be proven wrong?) but it has a very significant ending..”Of all of them at the bar that night, the bartender was the one who survived the longest.He died three weeks later on the road out of the city”. (page 11, last para). I get a chill down my spine! Chapter 3: The plot thickens! The narrator slowly ratchets up the tension. Jeevan’s doctor friend (Hua), who works at a local hospital calls him to warn him of a quickly developing pandemic and “”Listen” Hua said,” you have to get out of the city”” (page 19, bottom). Jeevan realizes that this is the moment of truth “Jeevan was crushed by a sudden certainty that this was it, that this illness that Hua was describing was going to be the divide between a before and an after, a line drawn through his life” (page 20, bottom). Jeevan, unwilling to abandon his brother (he advised his girlfriend to leave town) decides to stock up on essentials and wait it out at his brothers apartment. In chapter five , we are introduced to Arthur Leander’s first wife (of three….who’s perfect?, right!) She is a shipping executive, temporarily marooned in Malaysia when she is informed of her ex husband’s death “So this is how it ends, she thought, when the call was over, and she was soothed by the banality of it” (page 30 , para 2). Chapter five also has a dramatic ending “This was during the final months of the era when it was possible to press a series of buttons on a telephone and speak with someone on the far side of the earth” (page 30, last para). Chapter six: a clever end to part one. The narrator spares us the agony of a blow-by-blow account of the developing pandemic. She gets straight to the point in chapter six. Life and civilization as the characters have known it is now over. There is no more technology. “No more cities…no more screens…no more pharmaceuticals, no more certainty of surviving a scratch on one’s hand…No more countries, all borders unmanned..No more fire departments, no more police” (page 31) No more internet. No more social media” (page 32). Kudos to the narrator! I admire how well she has developed the story and then in section two moves twenty years forward in time. The curtain now falls on the prologue.
Print this page