Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews

One of the ways I judge a book, perhaps the most important way, is how well I remember it. Do the characters stay with me, vivid, fully imagined? When I glance at the book’s cover do I call up mental images and impressions? Or is it a blank, a mushy gray fog, a head-scratching vagueness and flipping open the pages or reading the cover to remember who’s in the book and what it’s about?

The memorability (is that a word?) of a book doesn’t coincide with good writing, necessarily. Sometimes I remember books because the plot was crazy or there was a scene so horrifying it’s etched in my memory or because something in it linked to some experience in my life and found lodging snuggled up by my memories.

I honestly can’t say if this book is well-written or not. I liked it, it was an easy read, and I remember the main characters and the plot itself, mostly. I don’t read a lot of spy books but I love a story that gives me a twisty-turny plot so maybe I should read more of them.

I also love a story when the female lead has more going on than dealing with social dilemmas and falling in or out of love.

Give me a woman who’s on a mission, who’s surviving against all odds, who’s done what she had to do, who’s an assassin or a jewelry thief, who invented a religion or took over an industry. Hell, yeah.

I also like a lot of psychoanalysis (though not long bouts of exposition — it needs to be written into the story, not offered as an aside) and there’s lots of spymaster psychological assessment going on here and getting it right is a life-or-death thing which makes it even better.

Should you read this book? Yes, if you like spy books or any of the other things I mentioned above.

Also, if you enjoy having noses described in creative ways:

…he had blue eyes, and a steel girder for a nose.

That’s a good one, but this is the best one:

…he looked to be fifty years old, with a red-veined tetrahedron for a nose.


I was excited to watch the movie after I read the book, but they did this story dirty with the movie adaptation. I gave up after 20 minutes. Jennifer Lawrence did her best to hold it together, but her commitment wasn’t enough to save the terrible dialogue and god-awful acting and just overall bad… I don’t know, directing, I guess? Oh well.