October 8, 2016

All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon (Review)

Title: All That Is Solid Melts into Air
Author: Darragh McKeon
First published: 2014
Add it: Goodreads, Book Depository
Rating: ★★★★★

I've just returned from an Italian holiday! Love this country: food and Renaissance are both amazing! Before the journey, I had thought for quite some time about what I wanted to read on the trains, and had decided on probably the least holiday-themed book ever. But somehow, it fitted perfectly. The thing is, I went on this trip with my mom, and we always have these heated discussions about politics and Soviet Union. She's often resentful of me being so negative about the whole period. I guess she's nostalgic of the era of her crazy young life, or maybe the propaganda is so ingrained into your brain that you can't easily get rid of it. I try to listen to her, but I can't but remember all the facts that I've read and that are painting a very different picture than what she remembers. The picture this book paints, for example, is not pretty. It is true and painful and urgent and shows exactly what was wrong with the social system in Soviet Union at the time of the Chernobyl catastrophe.

I'm usually skeptical about non-soviet authors writing about soviet times. True, there is such thing as research, but I didn't believe you could write based on research as believably as if you'd lived it. Well, this book proves me wrong. Every little detail rings true, beginning with the mundane stuff like living arrangements to the unsaid fears deep in the people's minds. The writing is very vivid and precise, and it lulls you into the atmosphere of the book so that it's very difficult to put down.

I admit I didn't know much about Chernobyl meltdown before reading this book, just the basics. As it turns out, the catastrophe was much more horrible than I could have imagined. And the most horrifying thing is not radiation itself, it's how the system prevented any kind of effective counter-actions. There was even no backup plan or emergency procedure, because preparing them would mean admitting the plant could fail, and that's just unthinkable, right? If you just imagine how many lives could have been spared if they actually counted for something! Medical advice was ignored to honor subordination and save the face of the officials and the nation and people were treated.. well, in the same way as people were always treated in Soviet Union.

In my book: A very powerful book that shows the big picture of the catastrophe and the small, individual picture of the lives of the people caught in its whirlwind. Really stunning!


  1. Sounds like a powerful book. I have Voices From Chernobyl right now, maybe I'll read this someday too...
    My SIL is usually oddly nostalgic about the USSR. I think it's mostly nostalgia for her youth, really. I never argue with her about it, because what do I know?

    1. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say about Voices. What I've heard is that the book is pretty devastating. I'd be interested in picking it up, but after a small break from this) So your SIL lived in USSR? How interesting! When did she move, if it's not too personal?

    2. Yeah, I'm kind of nervous about picking it up. I'm sure you should take a break before reading it!

      My SIL is Russian and left in her mid-20s (this would be, what, around 1997 or so?) to teach Russian at a university in Germany, where she and my brother met. I don't think she really meant to move to the US, it's just how things turned out.


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