“The Girl with the Dragon Tatttoo” by Stieg Larsson
(This is probably because I picked up “Twilight” when everyone was reading it, and was bored to death. Fool me once, shame on you…)
There’s an American movie version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” coming out soon. (The Swedish film version of this and the two subsequent books are all available on Netflix, FYI.) The trailer looks pretty awesome, and so I figured I should probably read this book that has everyone buzzing before the film hits theaters and I want to see it.
Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” reminded me of Dan Brown’s “The DaVinci Code.” I mean this as a compliment. Though no one will ever claim that “The DaVinci Code” is great literature, it’s a book that is simply impossible to put down, and its entertaining as hell. Both Larsson and Brown are succinct, cinematic writers who seem to have a good sense of how to keep action rolling along while pushing a snappy plot.
In this book, reporter/publisher Mikael Blomkvist (of “Millennium” magazine) has just been found guilty of libel for an article he published attacking a businessman when he’s approached by an elderly businessman named Henrik Vanger. Vanger wants Blomkvist to research the the disappearance of his niece, Harriet, which happened 40 years earlier. After a slow start, Blomkvist realizes he’s digging into long-buried family secrets and might be in over his head. He pulls in a mysterious researcher named Lisbeth Salander, and the two are soon unraveling 40 years of buried information and dark secrets. We’re talking serial killers, religious weirdness, Nazis, and potentially shady business dealings.
Blomkvist (for all the women he seems to easily bed) is a pretty bland protagonist, but can I see why there’s such a hullabaloo about the character of Lisbeth Salander. She’s freaking phenomenal – a young woman of super intelligence and a dark history, clawing her way through the world and some really hard times. When someone wrongs her, she gets revenge. The scenes involving her and a sleazy guardian are the most brutal of the whole book, but are examples of payback being a beast. She’s by far the most interesting thing about the book, and as I’m planning to read the other two books in the series I’m happy to know she appears in both. (Is that a spoiler? I hope not.)
The original title of the novel in Swedish is “Men Who Hate Women” and geez – do they ever. I was chatting with a friend and expressed my opinion that there are only two kinds of women in this book – victims of horrible crimes, and women who sleep with Blomkvist. (There’s one elderly lady who doesn’t fit in either category really, but she’s a horrid old bag anyway.) The men in this book are wealthy as heads of businesses or successful reporters, but the women are all largely defined by the bad things that happen to them or who they sleep with. Only Lisbeth (of all the women) rises above being one-dimensional, and that’s because – in addition to the crap that happens to her and whatever mental illness she may actually have underneath it all – she’s a genius and incredibly helpful. Whether Stieg Larsson had an issue with women, or whether he was trying to say something about violence towards women, I have no idea. I’m just pointing it out, as it was something that struck me.
Regardless of the treatment of women in this novel, it’s a really solid crime novel that was pretty much designed for plane, train, bus, and beach reading.
My friend Herb called “The DaVinci Code” “junk food for the brain” back in the day, and I think the same thing applies here.
This book won’t change your life, but you also won’t be able to put it down.
Especially when Lisbeth is on the page.
Get it, girl.