Friday, August 13, 2010

Book Review: The Secret Speech

The protagonist of The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith is Leo Demidov, a former Secret Police Officer in Russia. The Secret Speech is a sequel to the New York Times Bestseller, Child 44. When I read The Secret Speech, I didn’t realize this was the second in the series. And, truthfully, I didn’t need to read the first one. The Secret Speech stands on its own.

It was a bit difficult to get into this book. The names are unusual, of course, and hard for me to pronounce in my head as I read. The dialogue is handled differently from what we do in the States – it’s not set off by quotation marks, but rather put on a separate line with a hyphen and italicized.

Those are minor things. I kept reading and was rewarded with a fascinating story with layers of emotions and a tale that takes place in a country and time I know little about. The back of the book contains questions for a Reading Group. You can look through those and get a glimpse of how complicated and layered this book is.

Here is the back cover blurb:
Stalin is dead, and the brutal Soviet regime once held together by fear is beginning to unravel, leaving behind a society where the police are the bloodiest criminals of all. Former Secret Police Officer, Leo Demidov is struggling to put his former career behind him, to make a life for himself, his wife, Raisa, and the two young sisters they adopted. But will the mistrust and betrayals from Leo’s own past shatter his family’s ability to love and forgive—or destroy them in ways unimaginable?
The Secret Speech is a gripping story that will keep you reading. There are times you won’t like Demidov for the things he has done. There are times you’ll desperately hope he survives and regains his adopted daughters and wife. You’ll also wonder how these characters could do the things they did. They are, however, true to the times and to their situations. Once you get into the story, you’ll keep reading every chance you get.

I give The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith a: Hel-Yeah!
FTC Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the Hachette Book Group, but that’s not why I’m recommending it, nor did it influence my review. Here in the States, we learn about history when we’re in high school. Mostly United States history, but a bit of world history as well. You can take World History in college also. It tends to be watered down, adjusted to fit the sensibilities of the day (don’t even get me started on what Texas has done to its textbooks). That’s why it’s important to read books written outside the U.S. or written about times and worlds outside the U.S., both fiction and nonfiction. It’s a good idea to go places, too. I’d suggest Russia, but it’s pretty smoky there right now. Hmm, wonder if my next book to be read is set in a resort on a Caribbean island? They don’t teach that much in high school either.


  1. Unusual names can be a struggle. I made sure the names in my book, while alien, were simple.
    And once again, another great disclaimer!

  2. A Hel-Yeah! That's great. Yeah, our history is slanted, but that can be said of any culture. It is good to get another perspective regarding US history. Best wishes for Tom Smith's success with The Secret Speech.

    Stephen Tremp

  3. i too struggle with names in books I can't pronounce and end up skimming over them, which can make it difficult to remember who the person is. Does sound interesting, though!

    Sylvia Dickey Smith

  4. I don't really like difficult to pronounce or unusual names in books either, but a good story can make up for those. I'll have to keep an eye out for this one.

  5. I have a difficult time too with foreign names in books. I find it difficult to remember who's who. I like the premise though.

  6. Somehow, if you want to read books set in foreign (to you) countries, you have to figure out a way to remember who's who. Once you do that, you can really get into the plot.

  7. You're lucky to get all these books for free >:)

    I bought one of the other books you reviewed some time ago, by Vince Flynn; happened to find it in the airport. Liked it.

    Cold As Heaven

  8. I'm looking forward to this because I really liked Child 44. Lately, I've read several American books that don't use quotation marks for dialogue and I've been wondering if it's a trend.

  9. Sounds interesting, despite the unusual names. I have to admit when I read books in French and Spanish I did find it difficult to adjust to the way they handled dialogue.

  10. This sounds interesting. I'm not a fan of hard-to-pronounce names but they don't usually put me off like cutesy ones do. Thanks for the review.

  11. I can usually glaze over hard to pronounce names, or mentally substitute something very anglicized in their place, but I still don't care for them. It would not be enough to turn me off though. The story sounds intriguing, and it is always interesting to see a character who is not very nice struggle toward redemption. Not sure that happens here, but it sounds kind of like it might.

    That dialog thing is sort of weird. I thought publishers edited books for international markets. I'm not fond of that practice, but I thought it was pretty standard.

  12. Cold As Heaven, my husband likes the Flynn series and gets each one as soon as it comes out.

    bermudaonion, I've been wondering about the lack of quotation marks, too. After I read this book, I discovered that we have a copy of Child 44. My husband bought it, but I haven't read it.

    Jon, that's an interesting idea - substituting an easier to pronounce name. I might try that.

  13. Thanks for the review - sounds like a book I would like. I also appreciate books in a series that "stand on their own" - and a good one makes me want to read the previous ones also.

  14. I really must read this one and Child 44 a read. Thanks for the excellent review! If you want to know more about Russian history I would strongly recommend Ayn Rand's "We the Living". Beyond explaining why Rand was the way she was the story depicts the years under Lenin's regime with unflinching detail. Love her or hate her, this book was one that needed to be written and certainly one many people should read. [Reviewed it at my blog a while back if you're interested.]

  15. It's hard to sink into a book if the names always trip me up.

    Another wonderful disclaimer!

  16. Kimberly, I will add that one to my list.

  17. I'm ready for a book that's complicated and layered. I've added both Smith's book and We the Living to my Want to Read list. Thanks for the recommendations.

  18. The odd dialog structure would bug me. I think that it's more appropriate to adjust the format along with the translation of a book, but what do I know, lol.

    It's very important to understand the other side of world news and world history. Our country typically has a very insular attitude that disregards most of the rest of the world as not relevant. And that includes areas wehre we should know what's going on.

    and don't get me started on Texas, either.

  19. I'm seeing more books with that dialogue arrangement. Not a lot, but some. I hope it's not the beginning of a big switch.


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