Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear DisasterVoices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book of people telling their experiences after the Chernobyl nuclear incident. Relatives of people who had worked to contain the burn out, people who directed evacuation, people who helped destroy homes, gardens, and the very earth that was too radioactive to remain, people who later moved into the Zone in spite of everything.

A few moments stand out for me. A nuclear engineer desperately trying to get government oficials to act for peoples’ safety, being brushed aside because a government person higher up had said all was well. A person sent in to measure radioactivity who wasn’t allowed to tell the people living there that what was happening. People planting peas because it was in the plan, and they hadn’t been told otherwise. People who had to work to contain the reaction because the radiation was so great it interfered with the functioning of robots. People in hospitals who were so radioactive they could not have visitors.

It is not an easy book to read–maybe three or four interviews at a time. But it is an important book to read to vicariously experience the immense power of a nuclear reactor gone awry. Freak accident though it was, it is important not to be unprepared should there be another one.

ETA link to documentary and essay mentioned in comment below.

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4 responses to “Chernobyl

  1. Thank you for this review. It sounds like a difficult book, but then, it isn’t the job of some books to be easy. It’s often all too easy to ignore things like this because they’re hard to read, but some books must be read to avoid becoming complacent.

  2. And we are seeing at the moment the price of being unprepared for another predictable disaster!

  3. Not light reading but thanks for your review. I vaguely remembering seeing a horror or science fiction movie inspired by what happened at Chernobyl.

  4. Interesting, I was just there!

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