John Freeman in Literary Hub:
For the past 30 years, Svetlana Alexievich has been writing one long book about the effect of communism and its demise on people in the former Soviet Bloc. Based on interviews, her books conjure a chorus of voices that rise and fall and arrange themselves into symphonic narratives: Here are the voices of Russians scarred by the meltdown of Chernobyl (Voices from Chernobyl), angered by the shame of Afghan War (Zinky Boys), and now, with Secondhand Time, bewildered by the collapse of communism and assumption they should all be capitalists now.
Alexievich was in some ways born into this task. Both of her parents were teachers and her father once studied journalism himself. At university, Alexievich was exposed to the work of Belarusian writer, Ales Adomovich, who believed the 20th century was so horrific it needed no elaboration.
Unlike Studs Terkel, whose oral histories of American life arrange themselves like transcribed radio interviews, Alexievich’s books are strange creations. They never ask the reader to think to imagine their subjects are representative individuals. When she won the Nobel in 2015, Alexievich described them as novels—which is a fair comparison given the meticulous arrangement required to create such clear and evocative pastiche. Whatever they are, her books are as eerie and beautiful as overheard voices on a crowded train car traveling through the night.