On November 8, 2022 member Robin S. invited members into the many worlds created by Emily St. John Mandel. Ms. Mandel is the author of the novels Last Night in Montreal (2009), The Singer’s Gun (2010), The Lola Quartet (2012), Station Eleven (2014), The Glass Hotel (2020), and The Sea of Tranquility (2022). Station Eleven was the 2015 winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for best Science Fiction published in the United Kingdom.
Mandel had a unique path to authorship. She grew up in British Columbia, lastly in an island community, leaving to study dance without completing her high school diploma. She became a travelling dancer, then a dancer who writes, then a writer who dances and finally a successful writer. While her island upbringing is reflected in her work, she loves urban life in cities such as Montreal, Toronto and New York City.
Her latest novels are difficult to put in a box: mixing noir mystery, the supernatural and science fiction. Station Eleven solidified Mandel as a genre writer. The book is post-apocalyptic science fiction, exploring celebrity culture, and the importance of art in society even when things fall apart. Robin found this to be a hopeful book (her advice however is don’t read it on a plane trip!).
The author falls in love with her characters, and uses them again. Characters introduced in Station Eleven reappear in The Glass Hotel and The Sea of Tranquility. This most recent book is speculative fiction about time travel and the time traveller’s dilemma: “If you could change history, would you? should you?”.
Robin finds that Emily St. John Mandel’s work is getting better with each book. Since I have no air travel coming up, I plan to try out Station Eleven.
Next Tuesday, member Anne Marie D. will discuss the works of Thomas King via Zoom.
On March 10th, member Janet H. shared the work of Michael Crummey, with emphasis on his historical novels. She used the phrase “I feel a tug” to describe the longing we get to know the emotional and practical lives of those who came before us. Many of us are thus drawn to historical fiction- stories that make our sense of place come alive.
Michael Crummey is a Canadian poet and historical fiction author whose work brings to life the unique culture and history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Janet read from his early book, The River Thieves which looks at cultural loss as European fisherman and colonists encounter the last of the Indigenous Beothuk. Life in early Newfoundland is shown as an unequal struggle over minimal resources in a harsh land.
Next, Janet read from The Innocents, a story of two children who are orphaned and take on the adult world of subsistence fishing and agriculture in a remote settlement. The reading illustrated how even the harshest of circumstances can be faced with determination, love and occasionally humour.