#BookReview - Alex by Pierre Lemaitre (translated by Frank Wynne)

 SHE'S RUNNING OUT OF TIME

Alex Prévost - kidnapped, beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a wooden cage - is in no position to bargain. Her abductor's only desire is to watch her die. 

HE WANTS ONLY ONE THING

Apart from a shaky police report, Commandant Camille Verhoven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads. If he is to find Alex, he will have to get inside her head. 

ESCAPE IS JUST THE BEGINNING

Resourceful, tough, beautiful, always two steps ahead - Alex will keep Verhoven guessing till the bitter end. And before long, saving her life will be the least of his worries.

This isn't going to be an easy review to write. Not because I don't know what to say about the book - there's plenty I could say, but I really don't want to give away any spoilers and in a book that's as packed with twists as this one that's not easy. So I won't be saying much about the plot, suffice to say it's one of the most gripping, shocking and gr…

Book Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


Station Eleven opens with a performance of King Lear, cut short by the sudden death by heart attack of its lead actor, Arthur Leander. Within a week most of the people present will also be dead, as well most of the world, all victims of the Georgian flu.
What follows is a stunning and haunting look at how humanity might adapt to a devastating apocalypse. It's a bleak thought but Emily St. John Mandel has written a novel that finds hope where things may have seemed hopeless and  beauty amongst destruction.  The narrative switches between twenty years after the flu and the years leading up to it. Despite Arthur Leander's early death he turns out to be a pivotal character as we follow the lives (amongst others) of his ex-wives, best friend, would be saviour and perhaps most notably Kirsten, the little girl who witnessed his death then years later became a member of The Travelling Symphony, a group of actors and musicians who like the travelling minstrels of the past move from settlement to settlement performing to audiences often desperate for something else; as their mantra states, "Survival is insufficient" and for people who have lost everything it is the works of  Shakespeare which provides both a link to the past and a belief in the future.
Indeed the arts features heavily throughout the book, not just Shakespeare but music, literature, the graphic comic books drawn by Miranda, one of Arthur's ex-wives and inspiration for the title, Station Eleven, even the Travelling Symphony's mantra comes from television - it was taken from Star Trek. We are reminded that whilst people are able to adapt and survive, it's through the arts that humans connect and find themselves. That's not to suggest that Mandel's imagined future is a bed of roses, it's far from that. Survival is a struggle, it's dangerous and difficult, both through the loss of technology that we take for granted and because as is always the way there are always some people who want more, and some people who believe - or choose to believe - they have a divine right to take what they desire.
Post-apocalyptic novels can be overblown affairs akin to a Hollywood blockbuster. Station Eleven is not that, it's a thoughtful, quiet look at how ordinary people might adapt, survive and live after everything they hold dear is taken from them. Despite the sombre subject matter it's a book filled with hope and one that will stay with me for a long time. Definitely one of the best books I've read this year.
My thanks to the author and publishers for my copy, received through NetGalley in return for my honest review.

Station Eleven will be published in the UK on 10th September 2014 by Picador

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