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All That is Solid Melts into Air Hardcover – 6 Mar 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (6 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670922706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670922703
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 212,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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)


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 15 July 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is a fictionalisation of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and its impact on a group of families who were connected or become connected. It is a complex work relying on multiple points of view and different strands that connect the narratives. But, incredibly, it works. The complexity never confuses; Darragh McKeon keeps all the balls in the air, never colliding.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
I read this book having heard McKeon giving an interview recently about writing the the debut novel. The fascinating story gives an original insight into how peoples lives were so affected by the nuclear disaster, against the backdrop of the fall of the Soviet Union. The book brought home for me the devastation caused by Chernobyl and how it impacted so many lives. It was well researched, with believable and captivating characters. The amount of information and deep insight into life in the Soviet Union at the time of the nuclear meltdown is remarkable given that McKeon only visited the region in the final stages of writing the book. I thoroughly enjoyed the mix of fact and fiction which were blended beautifully to make it an incredibly interesting, wonderfully written and original read. Would highly recommend it.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The novel is set in 1986 in the Soviet Union. The "system" is crumbling. Something then goes badly wrong at a nuclear reactor in the Ukraine. The story has something of a "disaster movie" feel, retailing the fall-out [quite literally] on a small but diverse group of people. A short epilogue reveals the sequelae for some of them after the USSR crashed.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Daring, ambitious, epic, moving' says Colm Toibin on the front of this novel. For reasons other reviews have made clear it is certainly daring, ambitious and epic; the problem is it isn't very moving.

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.
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