THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Emily St. John Mandel

The award-winning, best-selling author of Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel returns with a novel of art, time, love, and plague that takes the reader from Vancouver Island in 1912 to a dark colony on the moon three hundred years later, unfurling a story of humanity across centuries and space.

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 named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic 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 the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl 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.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.


Title : Sea of Tranquility
Author : Emily St. John Mandel
Format : ARC
Page Count : 255
Genre : historical fiction / sci-fi
Publisher : Knopf
Release Date : April 5, 2022

Reviewer : Hollis
Rating : ★ ★ .5


Hollis’ 2.5 star review

So, spoiler alert, this has a lot more pandemic-content than I think I expected. For some reason I thought the discussion was more centered in the older of the timelines but instead it seemed to span most of them; and we see COVID make a cameo, too. Having said that, readers now expecting a lot of page time dedicated to this might think there’s less than I claim; I suppose it depends on one’s perspective. But regardless, if you aren’t ready for that kind of content, maybe avoid this one.

As for the story itself, I have some mixed feelings about it all. I feel like this is one of those reads that you might not appreciate until the very end — because that was definitely the case with me. I wasn’t bored or disliking anything up until that point but neither was I particularly engaged with or by the characters we were spending time with. But the ending, the why of it all.. I liked that. Doubly so because I didn’t see it coming.

This also felt a little.. I don’t want to see autobiographical but it almost felt there were parts of the author’s own experience, in a few different ways, that she may have included via the book’s author’s perspective or experience. It took me out of the story a little but for the other bits I actually enjoyed wondering if Mandel had been asked these same questions, had the same experience of doing press for a pandemic novel during a pandemic, etc.

Overall this was definitely mixed for me but it won’t stop me from picking up her titles again. And, on the topic, upon skimming through the top bit of the GR page, it turns out this connects a bit to her previous release, The Glass Hotel. I never got around to reading it so I’m keen to step back and see where the bits overlap. I always love those little easter eggs. Here’s hoping that one, at least, is a win.

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **

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