Before the journey to Italy, I had thought for quite some time about what I wanted to read on the trains, and had decided on probably the least holiday-themed book ever. But somehow, it fitted perfectly. The thing is, I went on this trip with my mom, and we always have these heated discussions about politics and the Soviet Union. She’s often resentful of me being so negative about the whole period. I guess she’s nostalgic for the era of her crazy young life, or maybe the propaganda is so ingrained into your brain that you can’t easily get rid of it. I try to listen to her, but I can’t but remember all the facts that I’ve read and that are painting a very different picture than what she remembers. The picture this book paints, for example, is not pretty. It is true and painful and urgent and shows exactly what was wrong with the social system in the Soviet Union at the time of the Chernobyl catastrophe.
I’m usually skeptical about non-soviet authors writing about soviet times. True, there is such thing as research, but I didn’t believe you could write based on research as believably as if you’d lived it. Well, this book proves me wrong. Every little detail rings true, beginning with the mundane stuff like living arrangements to the unsaid fears deep in the people’s minds. The writing is very vivid and precise, and it lulls you into the atmosphere of the book so that it’s very difficult to put down.
I admit I didn’t know much about Chernobyl meltdown before reading this book, just the basics. As it turns out, the catastrophe was much more horrible than I could have imagined. And the most horrifying thing is not radiation itself, it’s how the system prevented any kind of effective counter-actions. There was even no backup plan or emergency procedure because preparing them would mean admitting the plant could fail, and that’s just unthinkable, right? If you just imagine how many lives could have been spared if they actually counted for something! Medical advice was ignored to honor subordination and save the face of the officials and the nation and people were treated.. well, in the same way as people were always treated in the Soviet Union.Buy it on Amazon