Author: Darragh McKeon
Genre: general and literary fiction
Published: April 29 2014
Source: TLC Book Tours for review
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.
It feels weird to call All That is Solid Melts into Air a "historical fiction" novel because the events of the story feel so recent, but 1986 is nearly thirty years ago. The events shown felt all the more immediate to me for this reason. Darragh McKeon's first novel is an ambitious work of literary fiction; it is a precisely-worded and long-winded debut. There is no doubt that the author can create a wide variety of attributes with his writing: from atmosphere to intriguing character-driven plots to evoking place-as-character. But the novel's unnecessary length and wordiness (thanks Kara!) can hamper the overall impact of the stories being shown.
I enjoyed a lot about this novel superficially. I could easily appreciate McKeon's grasp of writing and language, his obvious passion and knowledge for the characters, but I was also mired in the sheer verbosity. I never fully immersed into the story, even as Chernobyl happened, or even the catharsis of the fall of the Iron Curtain, I was always an outsider, an observer to the (admittedly minimal) plots and characters. I wanted to sympathize more, empathize at all, but it just didn't happen.
McKeon's writing is undeniably gorgeous, but it's the stand-off kind of lovely ant that can have an effect on other aspects. The characters lack the warmth and charisma I would have liked to see, even if they were rendered with exquisite detail and attention. Despite and because the good and meh that make up the novel, When All is Solid Melts Into Air hits a stride, it can be really good. But at times, it can be slow and difficult to keep reading. There's a reason this book took me 4 days to read when I could have had it done in under 6 hours.
I give the author massive points for his talents and for using such an ignored event to effectively begin his sotry. While the entire novel wasn't as effective or polished as I would have liked, I finished All That is Solid Melts into Air with a more than healthy respect for Darragh McKeon and a mind to keep an eoye out for future literary novels from him.
Tour StopsTuesday, April 29th: Book-alicious Mama
Wednesday, April 30th: Ace and Hoser Blook
Thursday, May 1st: River City Reading
Tuesday, May 6th: Doing Dewey
Wednesday, May 7th: Book Loving Hippo
Wednesday, May 14th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, May 14th: The Written World
Thursday, May 15th: Great Imaginations
Monday, May 19th: BoundbyWords
Tuesday, May 20th: Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, June 5th: Drey’s Library