Book Review: Sea of Tranquility – Emily St. John Mandel


The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel has returned with an epic novel that includes art, time, love, and plague, taking the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later. Sea of Tranquility feels anything but tranquil as we try to gauge where we are throughout the 272 pages.

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal – an experience that shocks him to his core. Two centuries later a famous writer, Olive Llewellyn, is on a book tour. Her tour is on earth but her home is the second moon colony. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage, connecting us to Edwin: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

With the hiring of Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the Night City, we uncover more across the vast expansion of the world. It’s a novel of epic proportions that doesn’t quite pay dividends. There is potential, though. The premise, the characters, the world are all there for the taking, but 272 pages doesn’t quite do it all justice. A short novel that could’ve done with expansion to engage with character, setting and concept, this new one from Emily St John Mandel is quick-paced and fleeting but with marvellous prose.

Sea of Tranquility is published 28th April by Pan MacMillan


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