All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
By: Darragh McKeon
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Russia, 1986. On a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year-old prodigy plays his piano silently for fear of disturbing the neighbors. In a factory on the outskirts of the city, his aunt makes car parts, hiding her dissident past. In a nearby hospital, a surgeon immerses himself in his work, avoiding his failed marriage.
And in a village in Belarus, a teenage boy wakes to a sky of the deepest crimson. Outside, the ears of his neighbor’s cattle are dripping blood. Ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unimaginable has happened. Now their lives will change forever.
This is one of those books that have been on my TBR pile forever (or, well, it seems like it was on my pile forever–I think I only got it early last year *can’t remember*). I kept putting it on my seasonal TBR lists on Top Ten Tuesdays in hopes of motivating it to pick it up sooner but alas, I kept putting it off (despite being especially interested in the premise of the novel). Anyway, this past autumn I decided yes, I am going to read it. And I finally did 😛
Guys, this post will by no means be a fitting one to do this book justice. I don’t even know how to express my thoughts on this book, it was just such an experience to read from start to finish. We’re in the last years of the Soviet Union and the Chernobyl disaster turns many people’s lives upside down one way or the other. The way that the Soviet government handled the disaster is portrayed in this book, from the lack of preparation to the consequences that the government still could not acknowledge. It’s very sad, but at the same time reflects the way in which that government, and Soviet society, operated at the time.
It’s the everyday people and their experiences that are affected in all of this. All of these characters in this novel come from different parts of society–a doctor, a child prodigy, a displaced family, a family working to survive in the city–and all of their stories intersect at varying points. There’s of course the struggle to survive, to get through the day, to get through the system, but there’s also moments of humanity that anyone could recognise, relate, or understand: a teenager undergoing a lot of internal changes, a person who’s lost touch with the things she once loved and believed in, a man working away to do the right thing and facing a mountain to climb, the fragility of relationships, etc. Simple acts of kindness are touching, sad reflections of broken relationships and their gradual disintergration were absolutely heartbreaking…The ending especially was bittersweet. I knew how things were going to play out based on the opening sequence, but it was still heartbreaking to reach the end; you just want to end to be happy and all right in the end, but alas.
I honestly don’t know what else to say about this book. I can’t believe I put off reading this book for so long, it was quite absorbing once I started reading it. I cannot recommend All That Is Solid Melts Into Air enough 😀