“The Girl Who Played with Fire” by Stieg Larsson
If you read my post about the first novel in the Millennium Trilogy (“The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”) you’ll recall that I had some issues with the treatment of women in these novels. Namely, that women break down into one of two groups – 1. Women who have terrible, violent things happen to them, and 2. Women who sleep with protagonist Mikael Blomkvist. “The Girl Who Played With Fire” only further enhances those beliefs.
Though “The Girl Who Played With Fire” has moments of being a compelling read, it’s very uneven – you’re never really quite sure what the real plot is, and several things from the first book have simply been pushed aside. Blomkvist is now apparently over Millennium publisher Erika, and sleeping with Harriet Vanger (who he spent the first book investigating the murder of.) Though, at about the halfway point Harriet conveniently calls to say she’s heading off to Australia, and is never mentioned again.
Also, I got sick of the male characters hating on women. There’s one especially grating character who insists on dropping the word “dyke” constantly, and a whole bunch of focus from the male characters on the fact that two women have a relationship. Apparently two women having a relationship is such a fascinating thing that it’s all men care about, and obviously means they’re prostitutes, which is obviously a motive for murder.
Lisbeth Salander, heroine and the hands-down best thing about the first novel, is given more page time in this book. She’s still by far the most interesting thing about the books, though it seems she’s growing up a bit as this book kicks off – She’s traveling the world, has a new apartment, and has shut Blomkvist out of her life. She, alone, made me finish this book. I’d be curious to know that else happens to her, but that curiosity isn’t enough to sustain me through another novel. (If I’m being honest, I might just check it out on Wikipedia.)
I don’t think I’ll read the third book in the series – “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.” Frankly, I don’t find Larsson to be a master storyteller, there are too many characters I don’t care about, and I don’t think I can stomach another woman getting raped, murdered, her ribs broken, slapped, called a “whore,” or otherwise treated badly.
Having done a little bit of research on Larsson since reading the first book, it sounds like he was a feminist trying to make a point about the way women are treated, or something. Whatever. It doesn’t feel like there’s a point. It doesn’t feel like much of anything, except jumbled plot construction and misogyny.
This is the book where The Millennium Trilogy lost me.
The first book was a good read.
This second book isn’t.
I’m done. There are too many other books I want to read.