All That is Solid Melts into Air Hardcover – 6 Mar 2014
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This daring and ambitious novel blends historical epic and love story with a moving description of the Chernobyl disaster and the fall of the Soviet Union. A book rich with resonance far beyond its historical moment (Colm Tóibín)
Brilliantly imagined, exhilarating in its sweep; McKeon creates a thrilling appearance of ease, while he delves deep and forges new territory for the contemporary novel. Daring, generous and beautifully written, All That is Solid Melts into Air marks the beginning of a truly significant career. I cannot say it loud enough: McKeon is here to stay (Colum McCann)
Powerful and moving ... a supremely accomplished social novel ... What makes McKeon's vision so compelling is that the system this novel describes is not merely Russian, nor communist, but universal (John Burnside Guardian)
His description of the explosion at the Ukrainian nuclear plant is a stylistic high point ... recalls Don DeLillo's Underworld ... disturbing ... convincing ... a tense denouement (Independent)
An outstanding debut novel ... portraying inconceivable horrors and acts of incredible beauty in luminously understated prose ... McKeon makes us care ... skilfully drawing us into their worlds before and after the explosion ... devastating (Metro)
A book to be devoured, tragic and funny and sad and beautiful and sensual and shocking and, ultimately, utterly transcendent ... crackles with the whip-smart propulsion of a thriller, while immersing its reader in the rich inner turmoils of its characters (Image)
Fascinating, with ... the ferocious grip of a rollercoaster thriller ... this book is beautifully written ... generous with elegantly turned phrases ... Skilfully crafted, thoughtful, poetic, well-judged ... [a] flawless pearl (Irish Independent)
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Top Customer Reviews
This is fiction. The reader has to keep remembering that, because the level of detail gives an authenticity and authority of a work of factual documentary. We don’t know for sure how people responded when the reactor exploded; we can’t know what steps were taken to cover things up; or whether the human scale of the clean-up was as McKeon suggests. His narrative is, though, very plausible.
The novel captures not only the nuclear disaster, but also evokes the stagnation of a collapsing empire. These days, it is easy to forget just what a closed, controlling society the USSR had been. In 1986, most of the population remembered the days of Brezhnev; many would have remembered Stalin and the fear of an all-seeing secret police and a state that was intolerant of individual political expression. This is depicted in the lives of Grigory, an ambitious doctor, and Maria, his estranged wife who had worked as a journalist before being banished to a life of drudgery on the factory floor. At the same time, the USSR had been in economic stagnation for many years and had just seen the death of three leaders in three years. They didn’t know it at the time, but the Soviet Union would be dead in five years’ time. In the novel, people were openly telling jokes at General Secretary Gorbachev’s expense and the men from the ministry were obviously powerless to control the aftermath of Chernobyl.Read more ›
Some of the writing is wonderful - the pages describing the explosion itself have poetic power, an utterly convincing chapter describes the hasty yet belated evacuation of the population of Pripyat. Other sections are unconvincing - a description of cardiac surgery comes straight from a medical textbook.
Characterisations are also patchy. The boys - Artyom and Yevgeni - stand out, absolutely plausible and winning. The "hero", the doctor Grigori, less so. He borrows traits from Ayn Rand's Adam Roark [The Fountainhead and Jack Schaeffer's Shane, but generally bears the imprint of television medics.
The plot is less than sure-footed. Some strands simply fall loose from the weave, and the overall pattern is lost. There is no real climax to anyone's tale.
The impact of Chernobyl, immediate and long-term, is controversial. Darragh McKeon adopts the worse-case scenario position, but this is not held universally. Wikipedia covers this and there are numerous references there. Fukushima has shown that modern capitalist states also struggle with the power of the atom.
The politics were a bit clunky, a bit too heavy. Grigori - "they need to take a hose to the whole Union [SSR]..Fire those in power. Promote talent.Read more ›
Some of the writing is so overblown it is enough to make you wince ("...she will no longer be just another shadowed form in this city built on whispers."), the characters are stereotypes (the child piano prodigy, the downtrodden factory worker, the maverick surgeon fighting against the system) and consequently the dialogue often sounds like it was originally meant for a CIA propaganda film.
This book tries too hard and ends up shouting so loudly that you start to doubt that it has anything to say at all. A 'Daring, ambitious, epic' idea has been turned into a largely unmoving book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This was a fantastic read; a fictional look at the 1986 Chernobyl tragedy. Through the lives of various protagonists, we see the rural life of a family in Belarus wrecked forever... Read morePublished 11 days ago by sally tarbox
This is a good novel and I enjoyed reading it, but it is not quite a great one.
I couldn't escape the sense of the author trying maybe just a bit too hard to reimagine... Read more
This stunning début novel is a love story set against the harrowing tale of the Chernobyl disaster and, subsequently, the beginning of the end of the Soviet Empire. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Ruby
I borrowed this from the library. Having read extensively about Chernobyl and having read 'Voices from Chernobyl' and watched documentaries online, I had thought that this book... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Liz
Sigh. It's just so disappointing when you pick up a book in the bookshop that looks like it's brimming with promise. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Victoria
My rating: 3.5
I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
All That is Solid Melts into Air (the title taken from a Karl Marx quote) is the... Read more
This is a novel of two halves - not literally in the structural sense, but in the sense of having two fairly separate storylines. Read morePublished 16 months ago by BookWorm
Well written novel covering the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. I'm unsure if all the facts were correct concerning the effects of the disaster, but it is a... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Mike Bolton
Good condition, arrived quickly. Engrossing book that opens your eyes to the aftermath of Chernobyl and the personal dilemna's faced by many.Published 16 months ago by Whatmore Ingrid