Mainstream fiction is more about the story itself, whereas genre fiction is about the type of story that it is, if that makes sense. Whereas I think literary fiction tends to be a bit more lofty and reminds many people of the books they've read in high school English classes, mainstream fiction generally does not require as much literature analysis, it can just be read and enjoyed for what it is while still having substance.
This week our assigned novel was All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which I absolutely loved. It had been on my to-read list for quite a while and this course finally got it pushed up a few places. I listened to the book on audio in the car and thought it was extremely well done. I'm a bit of a Francophile, so anything set it France or includes French generally gets two thumbs up from me. That, and the Museum of Natural History in Paris (where the beginning of the story takes place) is hands down my favorite museum I've ever been to. I find books and movies about WWII also tend to be pretty incredible since it was such a fascinating and devastating time in history, so there's lots for the author to work with. This book was great because it also appeals to readers of historical fiction. It checked all the boxes for me as far as character, setting, language and plot, and was the only assigned book for that class that I gave as five stars from this class (although many of them did get four).
The mainstream fiction title of my choosing for the week was Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. While I'm not always a huge fan of dystopian fiction, as I think it's been a little bit overdone as of late, I loved that this book was written in more of that literary fiction style. Below is my review.
It’s not often that a book can be both science fiction and mainstream, but Station Eleven is. Alternating between different characters and settings, Station Eleven is a realistic dystopian story that takes place before, during and after the collapse of modern civilization due to a pandemic flu.
The story begins one snowy night at a Canadian theater just hours before the global virus outbreak. The production stars famous actor Arthur Leander in the lead role of Shakespeare’s King Lear, but the show can’t go on when he suddenly collapses dead on stage.
Fifteen years after the Georgia Flu epidemic, an actress named Kristen travels the Great Lakes region with a nomadic band of actors and musicians known as the Traveling Symphony. The troupe’s motto is “Survival is insufficient,” as they journey town to town preforming the works of Shakespeare for others who are also still alive. But when they arrive in the next town the Symphony encounters a violent, self-proclaimed prophet who does all he can to prevent anyone from ever leaving again.
St. John Mandel masterfully weaves together diverse characters and details of various subplots, resulting in an incredible story about the resilience of people. Station Eleven is speculative fiction at its finest.
I give this book: