Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “All That Is Solid Melts Into Air” as Want to Read:
All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  2,431 ratings  ·  399 reviews
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
Paperback, 464 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by Harper Perennial (first published March 6th 2014)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.86  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,431 ratings  ·  399 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air
Jeanette (Ms. Feisty)
Psssst...This is now available. April 29.

It took me a long time to read this book. There's a lot going on here, and it requires some concentration to keep track of all the characters in various locations as they weave in and out of each other's lives. Along with an account of the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, we also follow the lives of other Soviet citizens in the years leading up to the revolution that shattered the Iron Curtain. We see the unrest and the despair resulting from a l
All that is Solid Melts into Air tells the story of the Soviet Union in 1986. A nine year-old piano prodigy continuously falling victim to bullies, a surgeon throwing himself into his work to avoid the emotion pain of a failed marriage, a former dissident struggling to free herself from political constraints. Everyday Russians trying to make life work in this repressed state; that was until a disaster in Ukraine changes things.

Most people who know me know that I am a fan of Russian literature an
I loved this book which is probably a surprising response to a book that tells the story of the people who lived around Chernobyl at the time of the meltdown.. The story of Soviet sheer incompetence is mind boggling. This is fiction, but describes what happened to people living around the failed nuclear reactor. The oppression of the Soviet system is described in numbing detail. Yet the humanity of the characters shines through. It is a tribute to the human spirit that some survived this disaste ...more
Jessica J.
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This books reminded me a lot of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, only set in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster instead of the Chechen war. The book has the same dark themes and a similar structure of interlocking threads moving in circles around each other and through time -- a doctor sent to deal with the fallout, his ex-wife working in a factory that could benefit from some organized labor, her nephew who could become a piano prodigy if it were a different time and a different place, ...more
Lauren Hopkins
Jul 02, 2014 rated it it was ok
I don't want to totally trash this book because it was really well-written but I don't understand how someone can take a topic as fascinating as Chernobyl and how it caused a fundamental crack in the Soviet state and make it unbearably boring. I cared about one of the roughly ten or so featured characters, mainly because most were given almost no depth or conclusion, and those that were given something to work with were completely unfulfilling. I think it was well-researched, especially in terms ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow. This was an incredible read: lush, lyrical prose on a sentence-by-sentence level, with breathtaking imagery and description. The stories of the four main characters were introduced separately but woven together like a fine tapestry.

I can’t say enough about this book. In fact, I don’t know why it didn’t garner higher acclaim and far more reviews than it did. For me, it was THAT good and shed such a necessary light on a topic that is still covered up today, despite its lasting repercussions:
Emma Flanagan
There has always been something mysterious about Russia. Something about this vast country far beyond the comprehension of most Europeans, which spans Europe and Asia. Even more so when one looks at the period of the Soviet Union. We still know very little about what happened behind the Iron Curtain. There are few other countries which feel both so removed from our lives other than maybe China and of course North Korea. Its a daring move therefore for a writer, particularly a debut novelist, to ...more
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Need to think over my feelings on this one. Right now it's a 3.5 for me. It was enjoyable but the pacing was strange and, quite honestly, distracting. ...more
Donna McCaul Thibodeau
I was excited to read this as many of my GR friends rated it four or five stars. For some reason, it just didn't resonate with me. I found it hard to get into and the characters seemed thinly fleshed out and hard to like. The book was hard going for me, I had to keep picking it back up to finish it. I probably would have stopped reading halfway through were it not for the fact it was a quarterly read by one of my groups here. The three stars reflect the portrayal of the Chernobyl incident, which ...more
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This debut novel by Irish author Darragh McKeon has been widely lauded by critics and other writers alike, and after reading the book, one can understand exactly why.

Set mainly in the USSR in 1989 in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the narrative follows a number of different characters and tells the story of the after effects of the accident, both environmentally and on humans, the resulting government cover up, as well as giving the reader the sense of the beginnings of dissent
Jessica McCann
Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Yesterday, I finished reading ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO AIR. Today, I already miss the people in the book terribly. Yes, I know they are fictional characters; that is the magic that fuels this novel. Darrogh McKeon has created full-bodied, living, breathing, feeling characters – mistreated, yet resilient; impassive, yet loyal; flawed, yet perfect. Add to that the author’s beautiful prose, his amazing talent for descriptive storytelling, and this is a book that will linger in my mind for years ...more
Chafic (Rello)
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
I realize that I had left this review out when I was doing my updates.

All That is Solid follows the aftermath of Chernobyl - the story is beautifully written with imagery that encompasses the atmosphere of Soviet Russia at the time. The character-driven narrative really shines through with how these families have dealt with oppression and the fallout.

It is surprising this is both the debut novel and the only novel that Daragh McKeon has written (since 2014), as it shows a true testament to a gre
I found it hard to get into this book. The first fifty pages were slow going. I found the subject matter very depressing,i.e.,huge numbers of people dying unnecessarily after the Chernobyl disaster. I did like the author's description of the vivid colors in the sky. I rate it 3.5 out of 5 stars(rounded down to 3). ...more
Marianna Neal
2.5 out of 5 stars

I originally gave this book 3 out of 5 stars, but after thinking about it I had to take it down to 2.5 because I just can't get it to 3. This actually makes me sad, because I was really looking forward to reading All That is Solid Melts Into Air, and it ended up disappointing me. It had a lot of potential and some beautiful writing... so why was I bored reading it? Especially taking into account the fact that the Chernobyl tragedy is an incredibly potent topic. Maybe the author
Nov 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss, 4-stars
Original review can be found at

I received this ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. The expected publication is March 11th 2014.

I am a big fan of stories that take place during periods of historical significance and this story did not disappoint. I admit that I do not possess a great wealth of knowledge about Russian history or the events that occurred at Chernobyl as I was too young to be interested in the world outside
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads I am utterly shattered by this book. I cannot even put into words how haunting and heartbreaking it is... and yet, one of the most beautiful things I've ever read.

Let me start by saying I received an ARC of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air in exchange for a review. The plot sounded interesting enough... but wow... I didnt expect ANYTHING like this! The stories of the characters in this novel will stay with me for many years to come. I cant get them out of my head even now
Jan 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up because I saw Olive at ABookOlive on Youtube hauling it and I instantly knew that I needed to read a historical fiction novel about Chernobyl. Also I'm trying (and failing) at reading more Irish authors this year which made me even more pumped to pick this up. Honestly I rather enjoyed it, it was a nice break from all of the science fiction and fantasy I've been reading of late, I've been missing historical fiction. I thought this book was well written and well researched. ...more
Feb 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous. If there was one word to describe this book gorgeous would be it.

After I read a book, I like to wait a day or so before I review it to let what I've just read sink in. I finished this novel last night, and I cannot stop thinking about it. All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon is one of those books that will stick with you, impact you emotionally, and cause you to spend hours researching Chernobyl.

This novel is the closest to perfection that I have read in a long time.
Mary Ann
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very difficult book to review, as a reader I found it very well done, but; the emotional roller coaster it has me on, I can't describe. The hardest part to accept is that it seems to have changed nothing, and people continue to live in harm's way. I also read the Original essay which was in back of book I read. Very sad & scary. ...more
May 07, 2022 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written, dreamlike novel centered on the 1986 Chernobyl disaster and its impact on a cast of characters with intertwining paths at the end of the Soviet era.
An average book about a terrible event, used as a sad background, and flat characters, used to picture the harsh soviet communism.

The book follows the story of several characters: a kid deported after Chernobyl disaster, a doctor sent to the event, his ex-wife and her 9 years old nephew. They have to deal with the soviet life, the imposed silence and the threat of being imprisoned.

The writing didn’t work for me, it didn’t flow enough and the pace was slow when something thrilling was expected. T
Mar 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It's difficult to believe this is a debut novel. Darragh McKeon has created a richly detailed story of the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster as experienced by a variety of people whose lives it impacted. Centered on a 9-year-old piano prodigy, the story draws us into the lives of his overworked mother, his devoted aunt, a former journalist who fell into disfavor with the regime for her stories about the Polish Labor movement, her ex-husband, a renowned surgeon brought to the disaster site to a ...more
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015-reads
I wasn't a major fan of this or the authors writing style. I felt there were too many themes going on for him to focus on any one in particular to do it justice. Flits between telling the chernobyl story to the marriage break up to the industrial issues to the teenage anxt and on and on.... ...more
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frighteningly vivid.
Melissa Condon
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have wanted to read this book for several years, and I’m glad I finally was able to do so.

I was 12 years old when Chernobyl happened, and I remember at the time feeling a deep sense of dread. There was nothing anyone could really do, and Americans were mostly assured that this accident would have little impact on us. Of course I live in an area that is thirty miles from a nuclear power plant, so there you are.

This book is full of details about Soviet Russia that I grew up hearing about: Grin
Denise Deen
Mar 04, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.....I watched the docuseries Chernobyl (excellent) and became interested in the history and stories of the people affected by this unimaginable tragedy. I ordered this book because it was so well reviewed and frankly there wasn't much to choose from in print about the incident. The writing is gripping and beautiful however for some reason I couldn't connect with any of the characters (and there are a lot of them). It is a very dark and depressing story (absolutely no levity) that doesn ...more
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book when I was doing some retail therapy in Cambridge on the day after the General Election. The cover is gorgeous; the title is unusual. I sat and read until the bit where the nine-year-old musical genius, Yevgeni, has his finger broken. I reckoned it was good enough to buy, so I did.

This book is about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but there’s only one chapter about the accident itself. The rest is about its effects on a cluster of characters. There is a surgeon, his ex-wife, h
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc, fiction
Miraculously they find the operating manual, damp but usable. They locate the section. There's a section. Ears numb from the piercing alarm. Eyes streaming. A section. Scanning through pages. A title: "operational Procedures in the Event of Reactor Meltdown." A block of black ink, two pages, five pages, eight pages. All text has been wiped out, paragraphs hidden behind thick black lines. An event such as this cannot be tolerated, cannot be conceived, such a thing can never be planned for, as sur ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: russia, audio
Quite a book, and a slightly disjointed mix of historical snippets, gently retold personal histories and dramatic scenes, these last in hard (hard, hard) light... I'm not sure it all hangs together as well as it might but there is some powerful writing here, and a well-balanced, not too widely flung, tale of some of those caught up in the gears of Chernobyl and perestroika and what have you.

I feel it slightly fails to root itself in Moscow and Minsk, KGB and samizdat and Lubianka and endless qu
Kasa Cotugno
Feb 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
The nuclear disaster at Chernobyl has come to represent former Soviet Republic in its waning years. Although it happened 5 years before the dissolution of the central state, it appeared to pave the way. But it is the human element that makes this book important. There are three central figures, but their lives are enriched by those around them more than the disaster. One could draw similarities between this and other pivotal events, for me, most notably, the government's reaction to the first re ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Samurai's Garden
  • Fear Nothing (Detective D.D. Warren, #8)
  • In the Country of Others
  • Altar of Bones
  • De zwarte met het witte hart
  • The Woman from Paris
  • Surviving in Biafra: The Story of the Nigerian Civil War
  • Fragments: Poems, Intimate Notes, Letters
  • Der Muslim und die Jüdin
  • The Least of Us: True Tales of America and Hope in the Time of Fentanyl and Meth
  • Die Sommer
  • J'ai dû rêver trop fort
  • The Kitchen Boy: A Novel of the Last Tsar
  • The Little Russian
  • The Boy on the Bridge (The Girl With All the Gifts, #2)
  • La Superba
  • Maelstrom
  • The Slavic Languages
See similar books…
From Ireland, Darragh McKeon has worked as a theatre director throughout Europe and the USA. He lives in New York. All That is Solid Melts Into Air is his debut novel.

Related Articles

It’s hard to believe the year 2022 is already coming to an end. That went fast, didn’t it? Still, there’s just enough time to wedge in a...
35 likes · 5 comments
“It's the same sky we've always live under. It's just in a different mood.” 1 likes
“Do you think you would have led the life you did if we had no books?” 1 likes
More quotes…