29.4.09

Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith


Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith is one of the books that I have been meaning to catch up on as I missed it last year. There has been a lot of hype about this book and there was much controversy when it was added to The Man Booker Prize long listing. In some ways I think this put me off a bit but I am so glad that I finally took the time to find out for myself as it is a brilliant book. I shall give you the blurb as the story is quite a complex one so I may not explain it properly:

THE SOVIET UNION, 1953

Stalin's grip is at it's tightest, enforced by the Ministry of State Security- a secret police force whose brutality is no secret at all. Under its regime, people are commanded to believe that crime simply does not exist.
But when the body of a young boy is discovered on train tracks in Moscow, Officer Leo Demidov- a war hero, utterly dedicated to the Ministry- is surprised to hear that the boy's family is convinced it was murder. Leo's superiors order him to ignore this and he is obliged to obey. But something in him knows there is more.
Sensing his doubts, the Ministry threatens Leo, giving him no choice but to turn his back on his once-beloved Party. Disgraced, exiled with his wife Raisa to a town deep in the Ural Mountains, Leo realises that the crime he helped cover up in the capital has happened here too.
The murder of another child.
Risking everything, Leo and Raisa will pursue a horrifying killer- even if doing so makes them enemies of the State...


I knew hardly anything about Stalinist Russia so I was worried that I wouldn't understand, luckily though Mr S did a history degree before deciding to become a doctor so he was able to give me a brief over-view. This book is one of the most gripping that I have read recently, you are instantly transported to the oppressive and desperate state that Russia was in when under Stalin's rule. Lies, secrecy, corruption, double standards and cruelty have infiltrated all parts of society. No-one can be trusted, even those that you love. I think this is what really made me think the most; it must have been horrendous to live under such conditions, constantly watching your back and having your behaviour scrutinised by those all around you.
The character of Leo Demidov is not a simple one, my opinion changed on him throughout the book but that is partly what keeps you reading. Tom Rob Smith keeps the story going at an extremely fast pace and this helps you to identify more with the characters, they had to act quickly and make snap decisions as there would nearly always be someone just behind them.
At the centre of Child 44 is a tale of survival; survival of morals and justice but also survival of thousands of people whose own country turned against them.
In many ways Child 44 is not a nice book to read; there are scenes of torture and brutality but they have not been included merely to shock, they are part of the integral fabric of the story, the author has to show you the lengths that the State will go to in order for people to obey their regime. This is an excellent book and one that I would highly recommend, if you would like to know more about Tom Rob Smith and his new book The Secret Speech which continues Leo's story then visit Simon's blog at Savidge Reads as he did an excellent interview with the author himself.

2 comments:

violetcrush said...

This book has captured my attention now. I think the cover is really powerful. I have read a couple of books on Stalinist Russia, so I am sure I would not have to struggle too hard to understand. Thanks for the review, I am adding this to my list.

Dot said...

Violet- thank you, glad you are adding it to your list, I really enjoyed it. It has made me want to find out more about this time in history.

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