Review: Voices From Chernobyl – Svetlana Alexievich

Here is a question for you.

Why are people so enthralled with chaos?

In ‘Appetite for Destruction: Why Are Americans so Obsessed with Disaster?‘, an article published on the non-profit AlterNet website, Emily Godbey, a professor at Albright College explained the following:

“Part of what happens is that as industrialism spreads, people get these very routine lives,” she explains. “The unexpected, no matter what it is, brings a certain kind of excitement to people’s lives … when they’ve been making widgets in a factory.”

While I agree with Godbey’s assessment, I also think it has something to do with humans natural curiosity in how other people’s lives are effected by circumstances beyond their control.

Which is why I chose to pick up Voices from Chernobyl by Svetlana Alexievich.

I wasn’t alive for the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, and yet, it’s still a fascinating subject some 30 years later.

Did Voices from Chernobyl curb my curiosity in regards to the Chernobyl disaster? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book 


On April 26, 1986, the worst nuclear reactor accident in history occurred in Chernobyl and contaminated as much as three quarters of Europe. Voices from Chernobyl is the first book to present personal accounts of the tragedy. Journalist Svetlana Alexievich interviewed hundreds of people affected by the meltdown—from innocent citizens to firefighters to those called in to clean up the disaster—and their stories reveal the fear, anger, and uncertainty with which they still live. Composed of interviews in monologue form, Voices from Chernobyl is a crucially important work, unforgettable in its emotional power and honesty.

The Review

I have to admit that when I first started reading Voices from Chernobyl I almost forgot that I wasn’t reading post-apocalyptic fiction.

The fact that this happened. The fact that it was shrugged off for the first 36 hours or so. The fact that only 31 deaths are directly attributed, even though so many have had health related problems since made me really feel for what these people went through.


Each interview was structured differently from the others included in this book and for me, it made each unique to the next, even though the people talking were all reliving the same horrible event.

Obviously, as with any other bind up, certain people’s accounts effected in more than others. The first one, of a woman who lost her husband and child, honestly gave me nightmares.

However, I also think each of the interviews included in Voices from Chernobyl couldn’t have made the book more impactful without the story either preceding or forgoing the particular one I was reading.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars. 

Purchase Links

Macmillan | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo


One Comment

  1. Tiana

    So glad to know this book exists. I am definitely going to look for this book to read. I think it’s really important to read and know more about people’s personal accounts of a very real, very sad tragedy in history.


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