The Secret Speech

The Secret Speech

Book - 2009
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Tom Rob Smith-the author whose debut, Child 44, has been called "brilliant" (Chicago Tribune), "remarkable" (Newsweek) and "sensational" (Entertainment Weekly)-returns with an intense, suspenseful new novel: a story where the sins of the past threaten to destroy the present, where families must overcome unimaginable obstacles to save their loved ones, and where hope for a better tomorrow is found in the most unlikely of circumstances . . .
Soviet Union, 1956. Stalin is dead, and a violent regime is beginning to fracture-leaving behind a society where the police are the criminals, and the criminals are innocent. A secret speech composed by Stalin's successor Khrushchev is distributed to the entire nation. Its message: Stalin was a tyrant. Its promise: The Soviet Union will change.
Facing his own personal turmoil, former state security officer Leo Demidov is also struggling to change. The two young girls he and his wife Raisa adopted have yet to forgive him for his part in the death of their parents. They are not alone. Now that the truth is out, Leo, Raisa, and their family are in grave danger from someone consumed by the dark legacy of Leo's past career. Someone transformed beyond recognition into the perfect model of vengeance.
From the streets of Moscow in the throes of political upheaval, to the Siberian gulags, and to the center of the Hungarian uprising in Budapest, THE SECRET SPEECH is a breathtaking, epic novel that confirms Tom Rob Smith as one of the most exciting new authors writing today.

Publisher: New York : Grand Central Pub., 2009.
ISBN: 9780446552332
Characteristics: 692 p. ;,24 cm.


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May 05, 2016


31/7 - Even more of a page turner than Child 44! I loved this, so much so that I stayed up till 2 am two nights in a row feverishly reading, unable to stop turning the pages until I fell asleep with the book in my hands.

I had forgotten how irritating and occasionally confusing I find Smith's choice of how to format and punctuate his dialogue. Instead of placing his dialogue within a pair of speech marks, as most writers do, Smith has to be different so he italicises his dialogue and neglects the speech marks altogether. Every so often I'd mistake dialogue for internal monologue because italics usually signify internal thoughts. Fortunately the pacing and plot successfully overcome that irritation. I was expecting the rescue of Zoya to be the exciting climax of the book, so I was quite surprised to find I still had over 100 pages to go and it appeared that the story was done with Zoya.

In my review for Child 44 I discussed the hate the book made me feel for Russia/Soviet Russia. I didn't feel the hate for a whole country quite as strongly while reading The Secret Speech. It was more about the individuals this time. I couldn't help but despise the prisoners who tortured Leo. Even though I understood their reasons, after what they did to him I couldn't find any sympathy for their plight. Yes, he did horrific, brutal things to people, but what choice did he have. If Leo hadn't been the torturer, if he had refused, someone else would have happily stepped into his place (as was shown in Child 44 when Leo couldn't continue with one of the interrogations when the doctor was injecting the castor oil into the prisoner) and he and his family would have been taken away to be tortured themselves. When the government is like the government of Soviet Russia was (still is), one man rebelling isn't going to change anything. All that's going to happen is that the torturers will have four more victims (Leo, Raisa, Anna, and Stepan as the whole family, maybe even some unfortunate neighbours, would have been punished for Leo's rebellion), the gulags four more prisoners, if they even made it that far. When the reign of terror is so pervasive all you can do is try to survive and keep your family safe. I'm looking forward the final book in the trilogy.

Apr 20, 2015

Not quite as good as Child 44 but still a good read. I'm going to read Agent 6 to finish the trilogy.

Jan 05, 2014

A page turner!! Takes the reader from the intrigues of communist Moscow to the viciousness of survival in the Gulags to the beginnings of the Hungarian Revolution...all through the main character, Leo, as he tries to consolidate and protect the family he loves. The novel made we want to seek out the nonfiction books recommended by the author in his Acknowledgments. Probably makes more sense to read the trilogy of titles in order.

Sep 10, 2011

This book was better than the first although it is a genre based on the West's Cold War view of Russia

Mar 03, 2011

Great follow up to Child 44, though the detective plot may not be quite as intricate or interesting as the first book, the character development is even stronger with the personal relationships having far greater depth and meaning. Overall, a great read.

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