Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
In Stalin’s Soviet Union, a murderer is on the loose, killing at will, and every belief Officer Leo Demidov has ever held is shattered. Denounced by his enemies and exiled from home, he must risk everything to find a criminal that the State won’t admit even exists.
|Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
In Stalin’s Soviet Union, crime does not exist. But still millions live in fear. The mere suspicion of disloyalty to the State, the wrong word at the wrong time, can send an innocent person to his execution. Officer Leo Demidov, an idealistic war hero, believes he’s building a perfect society. But after witnessing the interrogation of an innocent man, his loyalty begins to waver, and when ordered to investigate his own wife, Raisa, Leo is forced to choose where his heart truly lies. Then the impossible happens. A murderer is on the loose, killing at will, and every belief Leo has ever held is shattered. Denounced by his enemies and exiled from home, with only Raisa by his side, he must risk everything to find a criminal that the State won’t admit even exists. On the run, Leo soon discovers the danger isn’t from the killer he is trying to catch, but from the country he is trying to protect. From Simon and Schuster
Book Club Party Ideas for Child 44
Being an MGB officer gave Leo and his family luxuries that few could afford. While eating dinner at his parents house, Leo wondered who had to die in order for has parents to serve an “exceptionally generous spread”. “While the golubsty finished baking in the oven, they had zakuski, plates of pickles, mushroom salad, and for each of them a think slice of veal tongue cooked with marjoram, left to cool in gelatin and served with horseradish.” (page 122 – hardcover). Zakuski are Russian appetizers, usually served buffet style. These Russian Eggs with Caviar would be a great way to start your book club party for Child 44.
Golubsty is Russian stuffed cabbage. This recipe is made with cabbage leaves stuffed with beef, rice and onions and topped with a sour cream sauce.
Another food eaten in the book is kasha – barley kasha on page 139 and fried kasha on page 230. In aboutkasha.com it is mentioned that kasha was one of the most common foods in Russia, second only to bread and is still one of the basic elements of Russian food. Kasha is often made of buckwheat, but can also be made with grains such as oats, wheat, rice, barley or millet. One of the most popular kasha recipes is Gouryevskaya kasha, which is made with fruit and nuts.
Other recipe ideas:
- Millet soup, barley kasha and salted herring (page 139)
- Pea-haddock soup followed by fried kasha (page 230)
Book Club Resources for Child 44
Ratings at the time this post was published
|Goodreads: 3.98 stars (13,978 ratings)|
|Amazon: 4.3 stars (385 ratings)|
|LibraryThing: 3.99 stars (172 ratings)|
|My Rating: 4 stars. Overall an engaging read, with an unexpected twist that I didn’t see coming. There are child murders that I found disturbing, but tried not to let it detract from my enjoyment of the novel.|
Discussion Questions for Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith
- Leo’s character evolves over the course of the book. What do you see as the most significant catalyst for change?
- What propels Leo to go forward in his quest for the murderer: fear, compassion, or a sense of justice?
- The relationship between Vasili and Leo is contentious from the beginning. Does Vasili feel pure hate, contempt, or jealousy for Leo? Why?
- When Raisa reveals the truth of their marriage to Leo, were you surprised at his reaction? Would you have made similar choices under the circumstances? When does personal conviction trump duty and loyalty?
- Who do you think was ultimately responsible for incriminating Raisa. What would it be like to live in a society in which everyone is under suspicion of crimes against the state?
- Does the book’s portrayal of life in a totalitarian state remind you of any other books?
- In 1953, the year of Stalin’s death, there were 2,468,524 prisoners in the Gulag system. Do you think that legacy affects Russian culture today?
- Which character’s duplicity or innocence did you find most surprising, and why?
Purchase Child 44 at your favorite bookseller
|Tom Rob Smith was born in l979 to a Swedish mother and an English father and was brought up in London where he still lives. He graduated from Cambridge in 2001 and spent a year in Italy on a creative writing scholarship. Tom has worked as a screenwriter for the past five years, including a six-month stint in Phnom Penh storylining Cambodia’s first ever soap. His first novel, CHILD 44, was longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize, shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award and the inaugural Desmond Elliott Prize, and won the Crime Writers’ Association’s Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best adventure/thriller novel of 2008, and the American edition won Best Debut at the International Thriller Awards and Best Debut at the Strand Magazine awards. From Simon and Schuster|
The next two book in the Child 44 Trilogy
Personal Insights, Favorite Quotes, etc…
Most of the prisoners were too terrified to be of any threat except for the five men in the far corner perched on a high bench. Unlike the other passengers they were fearless, at ease in this world. Raisa guessed that they were professional criminals with sentences for theft or assault, crimes which carried far shorter sentences than those of the political prisoners around them, the teachers, nurses, doctors, writers and dancers. (page 354).
Considering that many (most?) of those political prisoners were innocent, how scary it must have been back then!
Do you have any other ideas or recipes for a book club party for Child 44? We would love to have you share them with us! You can leave a comment below and upload pictures as well.
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