I read these two books together but in the wrong order! This was a happenstance as simply I bought The Secret Speech as part of Buy One get One Half Price or something like that but that was the sequel to Child 44 which I then wanted to read and bought whilst just finishing The Secret Speech. Enough of that what are they like?
Brilliant. Very well written books that have interesting plots, engaging characters and are set in a very interesting period of history. Tom Rob Smith is an excellent writer.
Child 44 starts off in the last months of Stalin's rule in USSR. This is a stark portrayal of the way that totalitarianism lives by creating utter fear within those it wants to regulate. I was there living in the fear that existed during that time. Also the mechanisms that maintain the facade of the great state - for example there can be no murder as murder is a Western crime that is due to greed etc. really bring home to you about freedom.
During the book Stalin dies and the confusion of the system from losing it's figure head is ably demonstrated as the mechanics of prosecution cannot complete.
The Secret Speech picks up a little later, the title refers to the famous On The Personality Cult and its Consequences by which Khrushchev began to dismantle much of the operation of the Stalin regime. I vaguely remember this from history lessons but this novel again shows the turmoil that USSR went through at this time and shows the complete confusion in many people who had their place clearly understood but this speech then undermined that.
So both books are really good reads that were for me quite educational as well however the subject matter both in the direct plot but also the multitude of subplots is very dark so these aren't a feel good read, until you put them down and realise how lucky you are not to be living in such a place at such a time.