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

About the Book:

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 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.

Published by Pan Macmillan Australia – Picador

Released 12th April 2022

My Thoughts:

I feel like I have been searching for the perfect time travel novel for the longest time. That’s not to say that the ones I’ve already read are no good, quite the opposite, however, early on within this novel I suspected that I had found it, the perfect time travel novel. And it was. One hundred percent, the absolute best that I’ve ever read – and I have read quite a lot of them.

‘You step into a party, at some long-ago point in time, and you know exactly how and when each and every person in that room is going to die.’

This story is complex, yet not complicated, wise and heart felt, deeply affecting in the way it deals with the morality of travelling back and forth through time. It is also a pandemic story, in that, we see pandemics over and over through time, quite a sobering thing whilst almost emerging from the current one. This story wisely demonstrates that to emerge from this one with any degree of complacency and relief would be incredibly foolish.

‘This is the strange lesson of living in a pandemic: life can be tranquil in the face of death.’

I’m not going to go into any specific detail about the story. I don’t think it’s possible for me to do so without spoilers and there’s no way I’m spoiling this one for anyone. Suffice to say, the basic laws of time travel and parallel universes is at play throughout this novel, however, the execution is mind blowingly clever, and the anomaly, once revealed, was sublime brilliance.

‘It’s one thing to know in the abstract that one moment might corrupt another moment; it’s another to experience both moments at once; it’s something else again to suspect what it might mean.’

I loved Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, his character growth was marvellous, and the manner in which we were able to read the subtle connections between Gaspery and each character was illuminating. Nothing is straightforward within this novel, and at times, the connections seemed tenuous, but be reassured, everything happens for a reason and nothing is meaningless.

‘If definitive proof emerges that we’re living in a simulation, the correct response to that news will be So what. A life lived in a simulation is still a life.’

I have taken away so much from this novel, so many things about life, as it has been, as it is now, as it may be in the future. This is a wonderful, beautiful, and inspiring novel that will remain a favourite.


Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

10 thoughts on “Book Review: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel

  1. ‘To emerge from this pandemic with any degree of complacency and relief would be incredibly foolish.”
    But that is, alas, exactly what is happening, before it’s even over.

    I must get round to reading The Glass Hotel… I bought it by mistake, confusing it with The Grass Hotel, but apparently it’s quite good so I kept it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I bought this yesterday! After loving The Glass Hotel I have been anticipating it eagerly. Now I’m even more excited to read! (Just finished the new Anne Tyler. You were right, it was everything we’ve come to know and love. Comforting and perfect.) Hope you and yours all well. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a coincidence you bought it yesterday and my review is up today! 😁
      I’m so glad you loved Anne Tyler’s latest – no surprise though. I’m certain you’ll love this one but let me know what you think. I’m dying to connect with someone else over it.
      We are well, life is good x
      Hope your long weekend was a good one…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: BOOK REVIEW: Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel – The Legal Alien

  4. Pingback: Top 15 Books of my 2022 Reading Year | Theresa Smith Writes

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