Station Eleven

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Emily St. John Mandel‘s novel is about a travelling Shakespearean theatre company in a post-apocalyptic North America, with much of the story taking place in Canada. It is also about friendship, memory, love, celebrity, our obsession with objects, oppressive dinner parties, comic books and knife throwing. We get to know the characters in depth: famous actor Arthur Leander; Jeevan — warned about the flu just in time; Arthur’s first wife Miranda; Arthur’s oldest friend Clark; Kirsten, a young actress with the Travelling Symphony; and the mysterious and self-proclaimed ‘prophet. Well worth the time.

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All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot SeeWinner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Anthony Doerr writes an enthralling story about love and empathy amidst the terrors of war and extremism. The story revolves around a blind young girl and her devoted father, who creates an exact replica of her town so that she can easily find her way.

The girl, Marie-Laure, had become blind by the age of six. Her father is a locksmith who works at the Museum of Natural History. As his daughter’s sight finally fails, her father builds her a model of Paris, and in this way she is able to navigate around the city. The Jardin des Plantes is their favourite place, and here Marie-Laure orients herself by counting drain covers and trees and streets, memorising routes and recognising the scents of trees and flowers.

In a parallel story, a young boy in Germany, Werner, an orphan, comes to the notice of the Nazis for his astonishing skill at fixing radios, and this leads to his relocation to an elite school aimed at providing skills for the Reich. Little Werner proves his worth and survives, even though the school is brutal and unrelenting.

When the Nazis arrive in Paris and begin to investigate the museum, demanding keys from Marie’s father, he makes plans to move to his uncle’s house in Saint-Malo. Despite her blindness, the girl is able to visualise the layout of the town when her father makes a small and detailed model of it. Months go by. Werner moves closer to the front as the Germans favour experts who can pick up radio transmissions from the allies. Life in Saint-Malo becomes increasingly difficult as the Germans take full control. Marie-Laure’s father is investigated and taken away, ending up in a German camp. Marie-Laure, virtually all alone with her eccentric great uncle now, joins the resistance and carries messages in baguettes. The Guardian

The Goldfinch

The GoldfinchDonna Tartt has conjured up some critical controversy with her latest novel, The Goldfinch. While it has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2014, the critics have been fighting over whether or not this book should be getting the accolades that is has. Read more about it in Vanity Fair.

But, controversy or not, it is a fascinating, enthralling story about Theo Decker. Theo’s troubles begin when, while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with his mother, the museum is blown up by terrorists, killing his mother, while  he barely escapes with his life, and with one of the most valuable paintings in the world, the Carel Fabritius masterpiece, The Goldfinch. His life takes on many twists and turns as he struggles to keep the painting hidden and ultimately find meaning for his own life.

Steven King, On Writing

Excerpt:

“A strong enough situation renders the whole question of plot moot, which is fine with me. The most interesting situations can usually be expressed as a What-if question:

What if vampires invaded a small New England village? (‘Salem’s Lot)

What if a policeman in a remote Nevada town went berserk and started killing everyone in sight? (Desperation)

What if a cleaning woman suspected of a murder she got away with (her husband) fell under suspicion for a murder she did not commit (her employer)? (Delores Claiborne)

What if a young mother and her son became trapped in their stalled car by a rabid dog? (Cujo)”

Steven King clarifies the work of writing. A must read by all aspiring writers.