samedi 16 août 2014

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon


In a small village deep in the Soviet Union, the inhabitants wake one morning to find the sky has been changed to the deepest crimson. Animals are dripping blood. And ten miles away, the government races to cover up the extent of a disaster that will shake an empire and destroy lives... From Moscow to Pripyat, the events of that years of 1986 will shake up the existence of a handful of people: a nine-year old boy forced to play silent piano in a run-down apartment block, his aunt who must hide her dissident past in the monotonous work of a car factory, her ex-husband whose life as a surgeon will be transformed when he is sent to deal with the aftermath of an unimaginable accident, and a young teenage boy whose family will be torn apart by what has happened at the Chernobyl Power Plant...

Like anyone born in the 1980s, the Chernobyl disaster has been a constant in my life, something that is talked about, taught in school and whose effects are still not completely understood. Despite that presence, I have to admit to not knowing much about what happened in the aftermath and the role it played in the fall of the Soviet Union. So I was intrigued to read this novel set in just before, during and after the disaster, following the first rumbles in the fall of an empire through the eyes of a few characters. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is a fantastic novel, heart wrenching and hopeful at the same time, whose characters lives shift and change over a short period, their entire existences overwhelmed by the tragedy. McKeon does a fantastic job of describing this post-Fall Soviet Union, from the constant fear and paranoia to the glimpses of hope amidst the darkness. A lot of this hope in the novel is provided through the character of Yevgeni. His story remains at the heart of the novel, though for a lot of it he is almost more of a secondary character, but it is his journey that starts the book and caps it off in an epilogue that takes us into the characters’ future (and our past) to show just what came from the events that took place in 1986. Always bittersweet, never going for the easy answer, this book manages to evoke a different place and time not so distant from our own, through McKeon’s wonderful prose. One of the best books I have read all year, without a doubt.

I gave All That Is Solid Melts Into Air 5 stars.

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