A Line from Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Child44cover
Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Today’s blog post features a line I liked in Tom Rob Smith’s novel, Child 44.

“Their mother, a stout, tough-looking woman who looked like she could swallow bullets and spit them back out, was in front of them, shielding them with one hand on each of their chests.” From Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Don’t you just love the way Tom Rob Smith described this woman in Child 44, the first book in his Child 44 Trilogy? I aspire to write descriptions like that – descriptions that conjure up an image in your mind.

What a writer shouldn’t do

As I continue to learn the craft of writing, I make a note of sentences that grab my attention in books I read. Yes, it sometimes takes me out of the story, but I read now as someone who is learning to write fiction. Writers are told not to write anything that will pull the reader out of the story, but I take an exception to that for myself at this stage in my journey as a writer.

A few words about Child 44

As I stated in my February 14, 2017 blog post (The First Line from a Novel by Tom Rob Smith), Child 44, is about a serial child killer in Stalinist Russia. It is the first book in Mr. Smith’s Child 44 Trilogy. I haven’t had a chance to read the other books in the trilogy. My February 14, 2017 blog post was about the first line in Child 44 and its being a good literary “hook.”

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished reading Grief Cottage, by Gail Godwin. Now I have the joy of deciding which library book in that stack on my desk I will start reading next. Due dates will influence my decision.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

I invite you to share my blog by word-of-mouth and by clicking on the social media icons below.

Janet

The First Line from a Novel by Tom Rob Smith

“Since Maria had decided to die her cat would have to fend for itself.” — first sentence in Chapter One of Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

Tom Rob Smith’s novel, Child 44, is about a serial child killer in Stalinist Russia. It is a compelling read, and I plan to read books two and three in this trilogy – The Secret Speech and Agent 6.

I knew the general premise of the story when I picked up Child 44, but the opening line of the first chapter intrigued me. The reader isn’t sure why Maria “had decided to die.” That’s what a good novel’s “hook” does. It pulls the reader in enough to make him or her read the next sentence, and the next sentence, until the reader is “hooked” and can’t stop reading.

My first thought when I read the first sentence of chapter one in Child 44 was that Maria was contemplating suicide. That was not the case. Maria (and lots of other people in her village) were starving to death. She knew the end was near.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Janet

A Line from Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith

It is one of those lines I wish I had written. There is a saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” In this case, 22 words can conjure up many mental pictures.

“Their moral compass had been neglected for so long that it spun out of control:  north was south and east was west.” That is a memorable line from Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. (Incidentally, I wrote about my general impressions of Child 44 in my October 4, 2016 blog post, What I read in September.)

The 2016 US Presidential Election

That line from Child 44 was written about two fictional Russian characters in 1953, but they could have just as easily been penned about the 2016 US Presidential election. Truth became a casualty of this race a long 16 months ago. The election will be over in a few days. The fallout from the divisive campaign rhetoric will not quietly go away. But I digress.

Clever writing

A moral compass that has lost its bearings and is spinning out of control is a great visual. I had an inexpensive compass to play with when I was child. I would try to confuse it by turning it so when pointing to magnetic north it would point toward the “S” but I could never trick that compass. No matter what I did to it, I could not make it spin out of control. I could not make it settle on any direction but magnetic north.

One’s moral compass is more fragile and less dependable than a magnetic north compass. We have all heard of people who have lost their moral compass and committed violent crimes. The use of abusive language and mean-spirited lies (such as we have been subjected to in this year’s US Presidential election) also fall into this category. It is a sad and frightening thing to be exposed to a person who has lost his or her way.

“Their moral compass had been neglected for so long that it spun out of control:  north was south and east was west.” Sentences like that don’t happen in literature by happenstance. As an aspiring novelist, I look for such sentences when I read. Writers are taught not to write a sentence that will take the reader out of the story, but I can’t help but notice and appreciate certain phrases and sentences crafted by other writers.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time. And if you are so inclined, please share my blog by clicking on one of the social media icons below.

Janet

What I read in September

My first blog post each month is about the books I read during the previous month. Maybe my comments about those books will prompt you to read (or not read) one of my choices.

The Woman in Cabin 10

The first book I finished reading in September was the psychological crime thriller, The Woman in Cabin 10, by Ruth Ware. This novel took me out of my reading comfort zone. Early on lots of characters were introduced and it was a little daunting to keep them straight; however, each one’s personality soon came through and prevented confusion. The author is British, so occasionally there was a word that prompted me to use the definition feature on my e-reader. Reading The Woman in Cabin 10 makes me want to read Ruth Ware’s first novel, In a Dark, Dark Wood, even though its review are all over the place.

Prayers the Devil Answers

The second book I read in September was Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. Inspired by on event that took place in Kentucky in 1936, this novel is the story of a woman who became a county sheriff in Tennessee after her husband’s death. Albert, her husband, had only been the county sheriff for a short time when it became ill and died in a few days. His widow, Ellie, quickly figured out that she needed to find a way to support herself and their two children.

As only Sharyn McCrumb can do, she spins a story about a strong female protagonist and backs up the tale with numerous threads that made up the fiber of the fearlessly independent residents of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the days of the Great Depression. The story includes murder and betrayal and, all the while, Ellie faces a task that will test her mettle. To tell you more would spoil the book for you.

Child 44

The other book I read in September was Child 44, by Tom Rob Smith. It is a murder mystery/historical thriller set in the former Soviet Union in the 1950s. I discovered Child 44 in a roundabout way. I started reading The Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith only to find out I had started reading the second book of the Child 44 Trilogy. I stopped reading The Secret Speech and checked out Child 44. Mr. Smith paints a picture of what Stalin’s Russia must have been like. No one trusted anyone and members of the secret police were everywhere.

The main plot is the story of Leo Demidov taking it upon himself to track down a serial killer. The State denied that any of the murders could be connected and, in fact, denied that most of them had occurred. Although some details were unpleasant to read, I found this novel to be a page-turner.

Child 44 was Tom Rob Smith’s debut novel. All quotes are in italics, which sometimes pulled me out of the story; however, from a writer’s point of view, I recognize that eliminated the necessity for quotation marks. That format distracted me. It also made it difficult at times to remember who was speaking.

Until my next blog post in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read and, if you are a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet