Hello there bookish folks. I’m reviewing / gushing about Sea of Tranquility today, and trying to put down some coherent thoughts about why I loved this book so! I’m also making this my second in a series of themed posts that I started aaaaaages ago with the intention of doing on a regular basis. That sort of didn’t happen but lets see how it goes from here!
I’ll get my thank yous out of the way first of all. Thank you to Pan MacMillan for granting my request on Netgalley to read this and to the author for writing it!
I requested a copy of this book based purely on my enjoyment of the author’s previous works. I had thoroughly enjoyed those, particularly Station Eleven so seeing her latest pop up was an instant add to the TBR for me, before I even read the premise.
So that premise, what is it? Well, the official synopsis is as follows:
The award-winning author of Station Eleven returns with a story of time travel that precisely captures the reality of our current moment . . .
In 1912, eighteen-year-old Edwin St. Andrew crosses the Atlantic, exiled from English polite society. In British Columbia, he enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and for a split second all is darkness, the notes of a violin echoing unnaturally through the air. The experience shocks him to his core.
Two centuries later Olive Llewelyn, a famous writer, is traveling all over Earth, far away from her home in the second moon colony. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.
When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in time, he uncovers a series of lives upended: the exiled son of an aristocrat driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel is a novel that investigates the idea of parallel worlds and possibilities, that plays with the very line along which time should run. Perceptive and poignant about art, and love, and what we must do to survive, it is incredibly compelling.
I love anything time travel related, across all media so was really intrigued to see what Mandel was going to do here. Oh how I LOVED it!
The plot is great, little points mentioned earlier in the book are tied back to bring it all together in a truly satisfying manner. I loved the way it played out.
The story seemed to me to be told in an almost dreamlike way, with settings on the moon, in Canada in the early 1900s and on both the current and future Earth. The book reminded me of David Mitchell’s works in a lot of ways, particularly Cloud Atlas. I think this is probably due to the differing time periods, with ties between each, and the way Sea of Tranquillity includes call-backs to Mandel’s previous works. I am a big fan of David Mitchell so this works for me. They both write in our world but with a touch of fantasy to it.
The actual method of time travel is only really touched upon lightly and comes courtesy of the Time Institute, located on the moon. Its not really about the “how” in this book, but about the effect had on the people we read about.
There are quite a few mentions of pandemics and no doubt part of the character Olive’s experiences are based on those of Mandel, who of course wrote about pandemics before they were something we all knew so well.
Mandel’s writing is beautiful, her characters well formed and settings well described. I love her writing and will continue to read anything she puts out. This book is hopeful and beautiful and I think its my favourite of her works that I’ve read so far. This was an absolute stand out for me this year, it lingered with me for days afterwards and I feel like its a book I’ll re-read in the future.