Summary and book reviews of All That Is Solid Melts into Air by Darragh McKeon

All That Is Solid Melts into Air

By Darragh McKeon

All That Is Solid Melts into Air
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  • Paperback: Apr 2014,
    464 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a gripping end-of-empire novel, charting the collapse of the Soviet Union through the focalpoint of the Chernobyl disaster. Part historical epic, part love story, it recalls The English Patient in its mix of emotional intimacy and sweeping landscape.

In a run-down apartment block in Moscow, a nine-year-old piano prodigy practices silently for fear of disturbing the neighbors.

In a factory on the outskirts of the city, his aunt makes car parts, trying to hide her dissident past.

In the hospital, a leading surgeon buries himself deep in his work to avoid facing his failed marriage.

And in a rural village in the Ukraine, a teenage boy wakes up to a sky of the deepest crimson. In the fields, the ears of the cattle are dripping blood. Ten miles away, at the Chernobyl Power Plant, something unimaginable has happened.

Now their lives will change forever.

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air is an astonishing end-of-empire novel by a major new talent.

Excerpt
All That Is Solid Melts into Air

He comes to her daily, slipping into her mind between breaths. She draws him in as she draws in air, pedaling along the Quai de Valmy, as she draws in her new surroundings; the glow of a Paris summer, the jigsaw of shadows thrown across her forearms when she sweeps beneath a canopy of poplars.

She can never say what it is that triggers a recollection, they come into being in such stealthy ways. Perhaps there was something of Grigory in the man with the cigarette at the lock just passed, a familiarity in the way this stranger brought a flaring match to his face. But then the breadth of their marriage contains a corresponding moment for any of the thousands of minute actions that surround her.

His image is lost to her now, belonging solely to the photographs he inhabits. She can no longer see him in resemblance, but only in the motions of others, so that when she chains her bicycle to the railings by the canal and steps toward the café...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Mckeon’s descriptions of the fallout are memorable, not just for the pain he depicts so movingly, but for the fact that he does so without a hint of melodrama. What’s even more unsettling is the knowledge that there’s a cloud of suspicion and half-truths; that information is not being shared fully; that the enormous human costs of such a tragedy are largely being swept under the rug.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (1211 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

McKeon's fiction serves up, without cliché, what so many futuristic dystopian novels aspire to: a reminder that human beings can bring about their own demise.

Booklist

Set amidst the Chernobyl disaster, McKeon's…graceful writing gives depth to his characters as they navigate indelibly changed landscapes and search for connection within chaos.

Library Journal

Starred Review. This startling debut novel is a love story set against the harrowing tale of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.… A promising debut; highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. This debut novel is set in 1986, the year of the catastrophe at Chernobyl, and that disaster serves as the dramatic backdrop for the unfolding of action and character… Serious and thoughtful fiction.

Author Blurb Colm Tóibín
This daring and ambitious novel blends historical epic and love story… Darragh McKeon handles the struggles of his characters with care and compassion and creates a book rich with resonance far beyond its historical moment.

Author Blurb Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin
Brilliantly imagined in its harrowing account of the Chernobyl disaster and exhilarating in its sweep, All That Is Solid Melts into Air is a debut to rattle all the windows and open up the ventricles of the heart…McKeon is here to stay.

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The Chernobyl Disaster

In All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, the Chernobyl disaster acts as the primary backdrop against which the story unfolds. Darragh McKeon describes the accident and the horrific aftermath in moving detail.

Chernobyl DisasterThe disaster took place more than twenty-five years ago, on April 26, 1986, Situated about 88 miles north of Kiev in Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union, the nuclear plant comprised four reactors all based on the Soviet designed RBMK-1000 model. In this model, enriched uranium is used to heat water, which is then used to drive turbines and generate electricity. In most nuclear reactors, water is also used as a gauge to control the core's reactivity. This means that as the core heats up, it produces steam or bubbles in the ...

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