Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith book review

I’d heard quite a few people suggest picking up and reading Child 44 including a lot of people who voted when I asked people which book on my physical TBR they should I should pick up next. I went into it blind with no idea what it was about, didn’t even read the blurb. Was that a mistake?

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Child 44 focuses on Leo, an MGB officer who is quite literally the poster boy for the army – he’s young, good-looking and loyal. He does everything the MGB ask him to, but when he begins to question some of the orders he’s being given and the orders he’s being forced to take, he’s not sure he can continue.

Child 44 plot – 4/5

As explained above, Child 44 follows the rise and fall of Leo in the MGB in Russia. He’s always done what they’ve done him but when he sees an innocent man tortured and they tell him he needs to arrest his wife, he snaps and goes on the run. It’s a fairly engaging story but it is mostly narrative rather than dialogue between characters, a format I often struggle to immerse myself in.

If you’re the same where you need to be involved in the story and there needs to be engaging dialogue, then you may struggle with Child 44 like I did. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a great story here, one that involves an interesting character arc but also one that I really just struggled to get involved in.

Child 44 characters – 3/5

The characters in Child 44 were incredibly droll. Leo, our main character, never really shows any emotion, he doesn’t really seem to have a sense of humour (though who would in this environment) and he even comes across as quite a bit of a dick at points including a moment where he hits and screams at his own wife. I suppose this is meant to add an element of realism to his character but it just made me really dislike him which, when he’s the character you follow throughout the book, doesn’t make for a particularly fun read.

And the story is pretty much the same for the rest of the characters too – no one in this book stands out as loveable or even likeable. With the story being written the way it is, commenting on the character’s actions and thoughts more than allowing them to engage in conversations with other characters, we rarely witness any moments in this book that make you relate to a character.

It’s a real shame as the story has so much potential here to be heartbreaking and emotional which could be accentuated by some great, loveable characters. But I just couldn’t immerse myself!

Child 44 – 3.5/5

Child 44 is one of those books that, despite my low score, has been praised by almost everybody else who’s read it. I found that the story wasn’t particularly engaging because it was written as mostly narrative with not a lot of dialogue and I can immerse myself far more in dialogue. I also found that, despite the great potential of the story, even if I had enjoyed it, none of the characters were particularly loveable so even then, it wouldn’t have been the most enjoyable book for me.

Don’t let my thoughts put you off as I know many have enjoyed Child 44, but do take note of my comments if you know you enjoy a book with more character interaction and more likeable characters too.

Pick up a copy of Child 44 from Amazon.

4 thoughts on “Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith book review

  • Diana Raabe

    I wonder how the movie turned out. You’re right; more narrative, less dialogue. How does that even translate to the screen? 🤔 I am not sure whether I’m more or less inclined to see the movie now, although I did find the plot intriguing. What do you think?

  • Margaret Clarkson

    I read this a few years ago and was hugely disappointed in it. It sounded so good bur definitely didn’t live up to expectations.

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