I first read Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith in first year university for a utopian fiction class. While there is a lot in the book about communism and Russia, I feel like we read it more because it’s a good, exciting book, than to analyze the utopian/dystopian aspects of the society it portrayed. Anyway, it’s a great read. Once I’d finished it, I passed it along to my boyfriend for him to read, and shortly after that, I forgot about it.
It reentered our lives again this year. Eric was looking for a good audiobook and recalled enjoying it. Once he started listening it, I soon found myself wanting to re-immerse myself in Leo Demidov’s story. I put it on my phone and listened to it on my walk to and from work.
When I read Child 44 a lot of the suspense and intrigue was ruined by concurrent in class discussions – my prof gave no spoiler warnings. Re-reading (we can debate whether listening to an audiobook is the same as reading at another time) it, I expected to have the same lack of surprise, since I already knew what was going to happen.
Boy, was I wrong.
It’s funny how much you can forget and mis-remember in five year’s time. I knew what the major plot twist was, but I had mixed up a fundamental part of it, so when in finally came around to the reveal, it was like I was hearing it for the first time. Mind you, part of the surprise was actually surprise at myself for not having remembered correctly. Still, I’m glad that that excitement wasn’t lost forever.
I still very much enjoyed the novel this time around. Having a better understanding of history, politics, and feminism now than I did back in 2010/2011, I found myself analyzing it in different ways. Thinking I knew all the details of the mystery probably also played into my ability to focus on the other details of the plot as well – Raisa and Leo’s relationship, the role of communism in the utopian/dystopian society etc.
One thing that is very different between an audiobook and the paper version is that the narrator in the audio version of Child 44 does all the Russian accents. It was a bit hard to get used to, since I’d already read it myself, pronouncing things in the Canadian English way. But once I got used to it, it added another element of depth.
All around, not a bad way to spend the morning commute.