Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Book Review: All That is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

All That is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

Completion Date: May, 2014
Length: 464 Pages
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.
An end-of-empire novel charting the collapse of the Soviet Union, All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a gripping and epic love story by a major new talent.
This book was outside my general reading in many ways... First, I don't typical read books that place so recently as 1986. My interests tend to be older history. But, I am interested in the Soviet Union and realized I had never really read a novel that takes place during that period in history. I remember kids coming to Canada for the summer from places in what used to be the Soviet Union because of the radiation from the Chernobyl Power Plant explosion. I have to admit it was not something I had thought of in a while, but it gave me even more interest in reading this book that sheds some light on that terrible time.

A mark of a good book, for me, is one that makes you want to read more about a certain subject. I think it is timely that Russia is in the news so heavily right now. While they have changed a lot since the country they were in 1986, there are still similarities that make you appreciate the fact you can read about it from a distance. And, McKeon puts a human face on the tragedy. I wish I paid more attention to the outside world and had read more on the Chernobyl disaster before now. There is just always so much happening in the world that you can't focus on everything like you would hope to. So, you read a novel about it instead and then feel guilty because you can't read everything. I think a lot of that relates to how events like WWI and WWII get so much exposure even now, but events like this sort of vanish into the background.

I read more young adult fiction that I used to, but I have to admit that I am not usually a big fan of adult fiction told from the point of view of teenagers. There are sometimes, though, that I think it makes a book even more human. I think there is a different level of sympathy for young people and animals than older people who have all ready lived a large part of their lives. I personally liked that there was a range of characters in this book, though. It worked better for me. I would sometimes have to slow down my reading to keep everything straight, but it all worked out in the end.

One thing I am finding this year with TLC Book Tours is that I am reading a lot of strong, well-written debut novels. I sometimes worry that I won't like them or they will try too hard and it will fall flat. It seems that 2014 is a good year for debuts, though. With a title like All That is Solid Melts into Air, I was worried this would be too literary for me, but I wound up just being impressed with the writing overall. McKeon is a fabulous writer and I hope that his next book is equally as well-written. He is definitely someone to watch!


  1. I was just reading another review of this one this morning. :-) It sounds like something I would like. I remember the Chernobyl incident when it happened. I was 13 at the time and world events like that were instantly caught on my radar. I am glad to hear you liked this one.

  2. This sounds really interesting. I'm with you on this not being my normal reading topic but now I definitely want to give this book a try! Great review!

  3. I don't think many books are around in the west that are set in Russia during the Communist era.

    Have you ever read David Benioff's City of Thieves? I think you would like it.

  4. I agree that the sign of a good novel is when the story makes you want to learn more about a certain subject. Chernobyl is such a tragic incident and seems like a great setting for a book.

    Thanks for being on the tour!

  5. With what is going on in Russia and the Ukraine, it is interesting to take a look at things from a fictional viewpoint. I felt the same way when I read The Boy Who Stole from the Dead. I realized how little I knew about Ukraine/Russian relations!

  6. I love finding good debuts. I'm glad you found one that worked for you!

  7. I'm glad you're finding some good debuts! I haven't had much luck with tours- one tour book I read was so bad I had to write back saying there's no way I could give it a positive review and ask if they still wanted me to do the tour.

  8. I'll have to read this one too -- as a person of Ukrainian background, I try to keep up on all novels that have connections to Ukraine (pretty tall order, but I try) This one sounds like a story I haven't read about in fiction, yet.


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