Customer Review

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nowhere as good as Child 44, 14 Dec. 2009
This review is from: The Secret Speech (Hardcover)
As with many second books (especially sequels) this one doesn't measure up to the first (Child 44). Mostly this is because so much psychological karma related to Leo and Raisa was used up in the first book. Leo who had gone from an unthinking automaton (and perpetrator of torture) to a pained reality of what he had done, could never be as powerful a character as he was before.

The Secret Speech refers to Nikita Krushchev's indictment of Stalin at the CPSU Congress in 1956. At that time he accused Stalin (and therefore the Party and the State) of the torture (and forced confessions)and persecution of innocent people. That it was done for no other reason but to cull anyone who might become a threat to Stalin and to cower the rest of the population into unthinking obeyance of every government command.

Krushchev's denunciation of Stalin, therefore accused all who were involved and part of the Great Terror (1936-1939) and those (the MGB and KGB) who ran the Gulag. The Party could NOT admit that it had made a mistake and Krushchev was eventually overthrown in 1964 by a coup d'etat led by Brezhnev and Kosygin. Most western historians tended to believe Krushchev because he had been the leader of the Ukraine SSR and a member of the Politburo during most of the last twenty years of Stalin's reign.

The weakness in the book is Leo's invariable ability to work his way through some of the worst parts of the Gulag and survive. The time on the prison ship and the personality of the camp commander are hard to take at face value. Leo (with Raisa) being able to escape the Soviet Union and venture to Hungary in itself (even though he has the help of a powerful KGB general) is too fantastical. Then the number of coincidences that occur ask the reader to ignore too much to make the last part of the story possible. The semi-happy ending at the end is in itself totally implausible.

Zeev BM Halevi
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Location: MetroWest Boston, MA

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