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.Read more...
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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.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-02-24
- Reviewer: Staff
In 1986 Moscow, as first-time novelist McKeon presents it, few expect the Soviet government to change: strikes fail, newspapers are corrupt, and many men and woman can only find work in factories. Even Grigory, a successful surgeon, mourns his relentless routine: “The life that had silently formed around him seemed such a solid thing now.” McKeon conveys the U.S.S.R.’s rigidity through the miseries of his characters: Grigory’s wife Maria, a savvy journalist, loses her career, reputation, and marriage in one fell swoop when her anti-Soviet sympathies are discovered. But while hope for personal betterment is relentlessly checked, the horrific nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl proves that massive-scale change is possible. McKeon offers four clear fictional perspectives on Soviet history, and not once do the private affairs of his characters (Grigory and Maria’s love for one another; the tension between a nine-year-old piano prodigy and his mother, who has too much riding on her son’s success; a boy’s efforts to grapple with his father’s sudden death) bump up awkwardly against the historical account. Instead, 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. (May)