I read this after watching the HBO mini series about the disaster. If you have seen it, the firefighter’s wife, the one who follows her husband, her account opens this collection of oral histories. It pretty sets the stage for the rest of the history that follows.
It is not easy reading. There are bits about the killing of animals – enough dogs and cats survived the cull that their descendants inhabit the zone today. There are stories about people, including children, dying. The genius lies in how the histories are presented. Alexievich uses a combination of straight forward interview as well as a Greek Chorus. The fact that the names of the people, for the most, are not used until the end making the stories more universal.
In the West, we perhaps have disregarded Chernobyl. The interviews resented here, especially from those that lived though the Second World War and the meltdown, will correct that.