Book Review: Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy by Serhii Plokhy

Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy
Serhii Plokhy

Published:  January 1, 2019
404 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

On 26 April 1986 at 1.23am a reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Soviet Ukraine exploded. While the authorities scrambled to understand what was occurring, workers, engineers, firefighters and those living in the area were abandoned to their fate. The blast put the world on the brink of nuclear annihilation, contaminating over half of Europe with radioactive fallout.

In Chernobyl, award-winning historian Serhii Plokhy draws on recently opened archives to recreate these events in all their drama. A moment by moment account of the heroes, perpetrators and victims of a tragedy, Chernobyl is the first full account of a gripping, unforgettable Cold War story.

Kim’s Review:

I read the whole thing and I really enjoyed it!

First, let’s talk about the missing star. Most of it is about the kind of reader I am, and I completely acknowledge that. This book was very technical. There were several places where science was included with very little explanation. Normally, I work my way through technicalities with a very limited understanding; I even had a hard time with that in this book. I think a bit more explanation of the scientific and medical would have been beneficial. I also didn’t agree with the conclusions that Plokhy reached at the end. I’ll admit that my political views lead to a different solution to the nuclear problem and that’s ok; it just took away a bit from reading the epilogue. The last thing has more to do with Plokhy’s background; he’s a native Ukrainian who has written several works on the history and impact of Ukraine. Unfortunately, his writing felt biased, leaning towards the villainization of most outside of a certain movement within the Ukraine. It didn’t feel very neutral in several places and my inner historian didn’t like that. But, that all can be condensed into 1 star and the rest of the book made up for all that.

It was a straightforward story put forth and I very much enjoyed reading it. I learned a lot and I found it easy to read. Plokhy was able to take a story with so many plot points and twists and players and lay it all out in a clear timeline with understandable perspectives. This is a really good history book and I feel like I learned many things that I didn’t know before. I absolutely recommend it as a historical reference. 

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