Saturday, 30 November 2013

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

Under a crimson dawn sky, Artyom Telvatnikov stands in a field of cows, his fingertips glistening with warm blood that streams from their ears.

It is April 1986, and ten miles away, above the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, clusters of sparks fill the air, inflaming the final years of the Soviet Union, inciting its citizens to actions of brutality, mystery and terrible beauty. Grigory, a surgeon working in the wake of the disaster, in a place where all natural order has been distorted, is forced to question everything he has known. In Moscow, his estranged wife, Maria, a former dissident, struggles to free herself from the constraints imposed upon her by the state. Her nephew Yevgeni is a nine-year-old piano prodigy whose sense of rhythm is rapidly eroding.

In All That Is Solid Melts into Air, Darragh McKeon blends an array of these and other characters into a strikingly visceral portrait of a place and a people in the midst of terrifying change.

ebook, 336 pages
Expected publication: March 11th 2014 by HarperCollins
Terri's Review
I received this ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication is March 11th 2014.
I am a big fan of stories that take place during periods of historical significance and this story did not disappoint.  I admit that I do not possess a great wealth of knowledge about Russian history or the events that occurred at Chernobyl as I was too young to be interested in the world outside my door.  This is the main reason I was prompted to read this book. 
What I liked about this novel is that I was able to learn more about this place in time without it feeling like I was reading a history lesson.  The story was told through the characters and their journeys as opposed to just a descriptive narration of the events that occurred.  I was able to feel what each of the characters was feeling and experiencing even though my life has not been remotely similar to theirs.  I particularly enjoyed the story surrounding both Grigory and Maria.  The remaining characters and stories while interesting in how they added an extra dimension to the book were not the main drawing points.
Those that are familiar with my reviews know that I do not like to give away any aspects of the plot however with the subject matter of this story it is obvious that this is not a happy go lucky read.  These were dark times in a place where people were still struggling under the rule of the Soviet empire and add to that the disastrous events that occurred at Chernobyl that we still hear about to this day.  Anyone looking for a story that is wrapped up neatly by the end of the read would be disappointed.  This book instead was realistic and honest in it's portrayal of this time and I am thankful for that.  Anything else would have been an injustice.  I also thought that the conclusion to the story was exactly as it should been in keeping with the theme of the novel.
It is my understanding that while McKeon has written several short story that this will be his first published novel.  As someone who has read numerous upon numerous novels from both experienced and novice writers I found that this was a very impressive read regardless of experience.  I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of historical fiction and not afraid of a read that is a little bit of substance.

DARRAGH McKEON is a theatre director who has worked throughout Europe and the U.S. with several renowned companies. In his native Ireland, he has been nominated for the Francis MacManus Short Story Award and the RTE Short Film Award. He lives in New York.

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