Child 44 was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2008 and it’s presence on the list caused a lot of controversy. I had heard so many different reactions to it that I really didn’t know what to expect. I was planning to read it, but when I saw that it won thriller of the year at the Audies I decided to listen to it instead. I am very pleased I made that decision as it is one of the best audio books I have ever listened to.
The book is set in Stalinist Russia during the 1950s and follows Leo, a state security agent, who slowly realises that the system he is part of arrests and tortures innocent people. He decides to work alone, risking everything to find the identity of a man who is murdering children across the country.
I loved every moment of listening to this book – I was gripped throughout. The complex plot was perfectly paced, the characters believable and packed with layers of emotion which were gradually revealed over the course of the book.
I can see why many people objected to this book’s inclusion on the Booker list – it is not literary fiction and contained no symbolism or hidden meanings buried in the text. It is simply a very good thriller, so anyone after a book to study for hours would be disappointed. As a thriller I can’t fault it – the twists were surprising and well thought out, the dilemmas the characters faced were thought provoking and tragic, and the cold, icy setting was perfect for adding to the chilling atmosphere.
There were a few gruesome scenes, so the squeamish (especially those who love cats!) should proceed with caution, but I thought the violence was appropriate and was needed to emphasize the difficult circumstances the Russian people had to endure on a daily basis.
I highly recommend this book, especially the expertly narrated audio version, to anyone who loves engaging thrillers.
Did you enjoy Child 44?
Have you read the sequel, The Secret Speech?