Last week was a fiction week and I chose Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith. Usually, I’m not a huge fan of thrillers- they are certainly entertaining but not usually thought-provoking or particularly artistic. And yet, Child 44 surprised me. I really enjoyed the exploration of paranoia and crime in Soviet-era Russia. And I thought basing the novels crimes on the real-life crimes of famous Ukrainian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo was incredibly interesting.
It was a very exciting read but also very disturbing. This wasn’t the type of book you read before bed at night. The characters were well developed and apparently this book is the first in a series so I would surmise that at least two of the main characters get deeper. For me what was lacking in this novel was comic relief. Even in some of the most depressing books I’ve read there is some sarcastic comment or absurd joke that lightens the mood, if only for a moment. And with the whole world of Soviet-era satires to work with, I can’t really understand missing out on making some attempt at humor. It was a very heavy read. A good read, to be sure, but very very dark. And don’t get me wrong, I like dark. I just think a little dark humor wouldn’t have been remiss.
One thing I really responded to in this novel was the main character of Leo. But what I responded to wasn’t the character of Leo per say, it was that I didn’t like him very much. Sure, he has some change of heart about working for the secret police. But that comes later. When he is introduced, he is a faithful drone of efficiency and ignorant heartlessness. I didn’t like him a bit. I still don’t really like him. But I love that I don’t like him. That’s interesting and unique and it made me want to keep reading.
I enjoyed this book but I have to say I don’t feel particularly strong about it in any way with the exception of Leo. I just think it takes a brave and interesting writer to create a character that people might not actually like but want to keep reading about. I will probably read the subsequent novels in the series but they aren’t at the top of my list.
What have you been reading???