Title: All That is Solid Melts Into Air
Author: Darragh McKeon
Source: from publisher for review
Summary: Despite being a bit dark and depressing, this book swept me off my feet with fantastic writing and a fascinating setting.
Signs of the impending collapse of the Soviet Union are everywhere, but fear of the regime is equally widespread. Piano playing prodigy Yevgeni faces violence daily as he travels the city. His aunt and mother struggle to make ends meet while staying under the radar. Everyone knows something has gone terribly wrong, from farm boy Artyom who notices that the cows’ ears are bleeding to Grigory, a doctor who sees how peoples’ lives are valued less than keeping up appearances. All of these characters will struggle to not only survive, but to make a difference.
I like to think that as I’ve been writing reviews, I’ve gotten better at describing the writing techniques which I like and dislike. Nevertheless, I still sometimes stumble across a gem like this, where the writing is simply perfect for reasons which surpass my understanding. Part of it is that the author uses somber adjectives and short, sharp descriptions, like a flash lighting up bits of the scene he’s describing. Part of it is that he’s clearly done his research. Reading about every character, from the farm boy to the doctor, I felt immersed in the captivating details of their daily life. Part of it is the minimalism of his writing and part of it is the insightfulness of his comments on human nature. And part of it was his ability to surprise me with new metaphors and descriptions that never would occur to me, but which were always apropos. But for all of those things I can define, I still feel like there’s something intangible which made the writing so perfect.
Something I disliked about the book, but which I don’t think will be a negative for everyone, is how dark and depressing it was. There’s some violence, including violence towards animals and children, which added to the plot. There was also some violence I didn’t think was necessary. Perhaps it was historically accurate, but even so, I would have been happier without it. I also wasn’t entirely happy with the ending because when I finished I felt uncertain what the point of the story was. We didn’t get to observe much character growth. None of the characters are able to significantly alter the state of the country. There’s some build up to large confrontation which never occurs. However, I think enjoyment and education I found while reading are point enough, so I would still recommend this very highly.
For some other perspectives, check out the other stops on the tour, Amazon, or Goodreads.
I could see a story like this being just about the history. The violence with children would do me in…I’d have to read it during the day, when I still have plenty of time to get it off my mind before bed!
It was fascinating to learn about that time period! I have such a limited knowledge of history, I love when I can pick some up from my reading. The violence with children wasn’t too bad, mostly kids bullying other kids, and it did set the mood for the story (dark), but I think reading it early so you could stop thinking about it would be a good idea.
Wow! The part about how dark and depressing it was is something that sells me on a book. That, coupled with your description of the writing, has me beside myself with eagerness to read this.
Thanks for being on the tour!
I think a lot of the bloggers I interact with like their books a bit darker than I do too, so I really don’t think this will count as a downside for everyone. I hope you get to read it and end up enjoying it at least as much as I did 🙂 Thanks for including me on the tour!
Hmm. You are the first person I know to describe the book as depressing. Usually i don’t like depressing, but I still really want to read this one. I’ll let you know what I think once i get around to reading it.
I don’t like depressing either, but overall I really enjoyed this, so hopefully you will too! 🙂
Melinda @ The Book Musings
I don’t think the fact that the book is depressing would bother me, but definitely the violence towards children. However, based on how you describe this, I would definitely like to read this book – even add it to my list. I’m glad that even though you had your qualms with the book, you still gave it a good rating. I also like the cover – almost like its out of focus, but still pretty.
The violence towards children was almost exclusively in the form of bullying, which is tough to read, but not too graphic. It also definitely contributed to the tone of the story! Overall, it wasn’t enough to negate my enjoyment of the book and the writing was truly fantastic, so I think it’s worth your time. I loved the cover too 🙂
Wendy @ Wensend
I already added this one to my TBR after reading a review of it this week and this positive review only wants to make me read it more!
It was so good! I knew as soon as I read it that it was going to be one of those books where positive reviews start popping up all over the place 🙂