About the Book:
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 . . .
THE SECRET SPEECH
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.
About the Author:
Tom Rob Smith graduated from Cambridge University in 2001 and lives in London. His first novel, Child 44, was a New York Times bestseller and an international publishing sensation. Among its many honors, Child 44 won the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Learn more on Tom Rob Smith's website at http://www.tomrobsmith.com/ Or visit the book's website at http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/features/thesecretspeech/index.html
Curious? Share the Reading Group Guide with your book group! Here's the link to a PDF of the Reading Group Guide.
Reading Group Guide:
- Zoya and Elena's true parents were killed by an officer under Leo's command. Do you think that Leo was morally required to take care of them?
- When Leo was a member of the state security force it was his job to arrest many of his fellow citizens. To what degree should he be held responsible for his past actions, even though he was doing his duty and following orders?
- How do you think the political atmosphere and the role of women in society affected Fraera's transformation from a priest's wife to a vory leader?
- Raisa seems willing to sacrifice her relationship with Leo to save Zoya. What do you think of her decision?
- As rioting gulag prisoners prepare to execute Sinyavsky, the camp commander, he pleads that he should be spared because in addition to the terrible things that he'd done while running the gulag, he also tried to help when he could. "Can I not try to put right the wrongs that I've done?" he asks. Should the prisoners have given him a second chance?
- Zoya ends up seeking her revenge on Leo by joining Fraera's gang, but in doing so she hurts her little sister, the only family that she has. What do you think of Zoya's actions?
- Leo was trained to be a devoted, loyal servant of the State but he forged an an unorthodox path for himself outside of the security services, despite the clear risk. Why do you think he was able to do this, when so many others couldn't or wouldn't do so?
- At the end of the story we meet a musician who is revered as a genius but his work was actually stolen from another composer who died in the gulags. If he were to reveal the true source of the music he would be exposed as a fraud and arrested as a thief. Now, riddled with guilt he asks Leo, "What would you have me do?" How would you answer?
- There are many "secrets" in this story -- Leo choosing not to tell Raisa what he knows about Zoya and the knife, Raisa keeping her meeting with Fraera from Leo, and Krushchev's Speech to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party, are only a few -- and the question of what the consequences for keeping those secrets might be plays out in ways large and small throughout. Do you feel that there are situations in the book where characters were right to keep their secrets? What about the final scene with Leo, Zoya and Elena? Should Zoya tell her sister the whole truth?
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To enter, please (1) visit Tom Rob Smith's website and either share something that you learned about him or The Secret Speech OR (2) tell us about a book that you're looking forward to reading this year.
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