Book choice for April 2012

Child 44 [suggested by Kate Grigsby]

front cover

With so many new books in the crime and thriller field vying for our attention, alert readers need all the help they can get. In the case of Tom Rob Smith's Child 44, the numerous glowing reviews were preceded by a lively word of mouth on the book. The latter can often be misleading, but not in this case -- this is a very exciting debut. It is set in the Soviet Union and in the year 1953; Stalin's reign of terror is at its height, and those who stand up against the might of the state vanish into the labour camps – or vanish altogether. With this background, it is an audacious move on Tom Rob Smith’s part to put his hero right at the heart of this hideous regime, as an officer in no less than the brutal Ministry State Security.

Leo Demidov is, basically, an instrument of the state -- by no means a villain, but one who tries to look not too closely into the repressive work he does. His superiors remind him that there is no crime in Soviet Union, and he is somehow able to maintain its fiction in his mind even as he tracks down and punishes the miscreants. The body of a young boy is found on railway tracks in Moscow, and Demidov is quickly informed that there is nothing to the case. He quickly realises that something unpleasant is being covered over here, but is forced to obey his orders. However, things begin to quickly unravel, and this ex-hero of state suddenly finds himself in disgrace, exiled with his wife Raisa to a town in the Ural Mountains. And things will get worse for him -- not only the murder of another child, but even the life and safety of his wife.

Tom Rob Smith’s beleaguered hero is a protagonist who we know will (at some point) have to rebel against the totalitarian state he works for. But it is the suspense of waiting for this moment as much as the exigencies of the thriller plot that makes this such a compelling novel. [Barry Forshaw writing on Amazon]

The book has a Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Author's Wikipedia page.
Author's website. "Rotate desk and click objects to navigate"?? Good grief.

 

Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. This month Kate's other selections were:

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Google reckons there are 1286 reviews of this book. Here's one of them, by Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA. Apparently she doesn't know how to use apostrophes.

An epistolary narrative cleverly places readers in the role of recipients of Charlies unfolding story of his freshman year in high school. From the beginning, Charlies identity as an outsider is credibly established. It was in the spring of the previous school year that his best friend committed suicide and now that his class has gone through a summer of change, the boy finds that he has drifted away from old friends. He finds a new and satisfying social set, however, made up of several high school seniors, bright bohemians with ego-bruising insights and, really, hearts of gold. These new friends make more sense to Charlie than his star football-playing older brother ever did and they are able to teach him about the realities of life that his older sister doesnt have the time to share with him. Grounded in a specific time (the 1991/92 academic year) and place (western Pennsylvania), Charlie, his friends, and family are palpably real. His grandfather is an embarrassing bigot; his new best friend is gay; his sister must resolve her pregnancy without her boyfriends support. Charlie develops from an observant wallflower into his own man of action, and, with the help of a therapist, he begins to face the sexual abuse he had experienced as a child. This report on his life will engage teen readers for years to come.

Wikipedia page.
The book has also recently been made into a film.

About the Author

Wikipedia page.
(Some bio pages also available on literary websites)

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You

My Dear I Wanted to Tell You

While Riley Purefoy and Peter Locke fight for their country, their survival and their sanity in the trenches of Flanders, Nadine Waveney, Julia Locke and Rose Locke do what they can at home. Beautiful Julia and gentle, eccentric Peter are married: every day Julia prepares for her beloved husband's return. Nadine and Riley, only eighteen when the war starts, and with problems of their own already, want above all to make promises - but how can they when their future is completely out of their hands? And Rose? Well, what did happen to the traditionally brought-up women who lost all hope of marriage, because all the young men are dead?

MY DEAR I WANTED TO TELL YOU is a big First World War novel with a difference, moving between Ypres, Amiens, London, Paris, Lancashire and Kent to tell of the experiences of women left at home as much as those of men in the trenches. It is the first of a trilogy observing - through the descendents of Peter, Julia, Riley, Nadine, Rose and others - ways in which the experiences of that massively traumatic period and its aftermath shaped the following generations: all of us who grew up in the twentieth century. [from the book page on the author's website - linked below]

Book page on author's website.

About the Author

Facebook page.
Author's website.

 

Previous Months' Book Choices

March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
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