Saturday, February 16, 2013

'Child 44' Leo Demidov #1 by Tom Rob Smith

I'm going to tell it to you straight: This book is uncomfortable to read.

Well written? Yup.
Absorbing? Absolutely.
But no holds barred, 100% depressing.

You see, once the story gets started, we meet the main character, Leo Demidov. Leo is a terrifyingly efficient war hero in Stalin's Soviet Russia that's banked his life and the life of his family on keeping his head down and his eyes closed to the atrocities that surround, and have greatly influenced, his everyday life. But when confronted with the real cost of this lifestyle, and circumstances start turning against him, Leo is finally pushed to action.

While all that might seem like it would add up to an inspirational read, the book sticks so close to reality that there isn't any room for much more than small, meaningful gestures between individuals. In fact, it's the courageous things that people do for one another - regardless of income, neighborhood or family ties... essentially the base humanity of it all - that makes this novel's message potently clear.

The Bottom Line: Part mystery novel, part historical fiction and part cautionary tale, 'Child 44' by Tom Rob Smith is worth everyone's time. In fact, part of me believes books like this should be required reading for all humanities students as tales like this one serve as stark reminders of what can happen if we forget ourselves.

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