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Women on the edge: 3 new books about death and survival

SINGAPORE – “Survival is insufficient,” goes the motto of a travelling theatre company in Emily St John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel Station Eleven (2014).

Here are three new books about death and survival, from Mandel’s latest lockdown novel to Maddie Mortimer’s debut about a cancer victim’s last days.

Holding on to art in the end-times

Canadian author Emily St John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic pandemic novel Station Eleven, which was published in 2014 and found renewed fame amid the Covid-19 outbreak, has a Singapore connection that most are not aware of.

It was inspired by a 2009 Daily Mail article about a ghost fleet of ships about 80km east of Singapore’s harbour, left adrift by the recession. At night, the blaze of their lights was visible from fishing villages along Malaysia’s coast.

In Station Eleven, shipping executive Miranda Carroll travels to Malaysia to tackle the ghost fleet issue and is stranded there when a pandemic called the Georgia Flu breaks out, killing most of the world’s population.

Two years into Covid-19, pandemic novels may seem a dime a dozen. But Mandel’s latest, uniquely, is about the author of a pandemic novel living through a pandemic.

In Sea Of Tranquility, which she wrote during lockdown, an author called Olive Llewellyn goes on a publicity tour for her pandemic novel, unaware that a devastating outbreak is about to occur.

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A luminous journey through time

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