Published by Harper Perennial on April 29th, 2014
Buy on Amazon
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.
I had a review written for this book, but the blog crashed and I lost it all. Taught me to save my reviews in another place besides just here. That review was incredibly hard to write and articulate exactly what I wanted to say, so I cannot even imagine doing it days later, because it’s even harder. But I’ll try.
This book is literary fiction. That’s the first thing you should know. And literary fiction is a genre that does not work for a good portion of readers. I, myself, am very picky about what literary fiction I read and I do not read a lot of it. Why? Because it’s the avante garde of the book world. A lot of it is very stylistic and deliberately without a plot or contains a certain tone or style. In the case of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air, it was the plot, or specifically, the lack of one.
The writing was absolutely gorgeous. Deep, heavy, and atmospheric, but without much direction. I thought this was going to be a book about the Chernobyl disaster, and parts of it were, but most of it wasn’t. Instead, it was a character driven novel about Chernobyl, living in Communist Russia, and the downfall of the Iron Curtain. Which was fascinating in its own way but not what I expected it to be. I just expected more of a story. Instead, it felt like snapshots of daily life in an incredibly bleak and depressing landscape.
You know, which is something that I know a lot of readers actually like! But honestly, I think if the writing had not been good, I would have probably DNFed this. It just wasn’t my thing but the gorgeous voice and fleshed-out characters kept me reading. So in the end, not the suspense I was looking for which, unfortunately, affected my enjoyment of the book.
This is still some quality literature though! But when a book doesn’t live up to your expectations, it’s hard. The good thing is that it has increased my interest in Chernobyl and the surrounding areas. I think I will just stick to non-fiction from this point on though.