I finally finished this book. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson – published in 2005 in Swedish, 2008 in English. I got it for Christmas in 2010, and I finished it at the end of June in 2011. I muscled through the first 250 pages and then couldn’t go any further. I had the sense that I was finally moving beyond the setup and the action and thrill would begin, but I dropped it anyway. Finally, I made it through the book.
I’m told that the title in Swedish is “Men Who Hate Women,” which I guess is somewhat apt. After all, there are murders and rapes and such. This series of books is often referred to as the Millennium series/trilogy. This takes its name from something in the book. There are a bunch of characters – but the main character is a journalist named Mikael Blomkvist. Blomkvist publishes a political/financial expose magazine called Millennium.
Blomkvist is not a terribly interesting character. He’s the hero and its obvious he is the hero. He survives getting shot at, when he goes to jail he has a pleasant time, all the women adore him, etc. However, he’s also somewhat daft for someone so “James Bond.” The other main character, who’s story we learn along side Blomkvist’s story – until the two narratives run together, is Lisbeth Salander. She’s crazy. Seriously. But she’s apparently quite intelligent, too. (She’s the girl with the tattoo…..)
I can understand why this book was a big bestseller. It does have a huge story and a complex narrative. Its graphic enough that all the folks that love intrigue and mayhem will enjoy it, and its intelligent enough that it takes brainpower to follow along with the storyline. After all, Blomkvist is caught researching the Vanger family – and the reader’s got to keep a handle on at least 10 characters to make it all make sense. This gets tedious – prepare to keep your bookmark in the genealogy chart. The story has a variety of levels, there is not just some simply surface story. Everything is interconnected and the story involves a whole lot of companies, people, and timelines.
Unfortunately, the writing is very boring. And perhaps some of that is the translator’s fault? The writing style is flat. Its just flat. Deadpan. The most outlandish item can be told to the reader in the flattest, emptiest tone. And I think that is why I had take a break from the book after the first 250 pages. Its not bad writing, i.e. idiotic and foolish. Its just deadpan. I’ve read that this book is a thriller…. well, no I don’t think so. However, the last chunk of the book is exceedingly more interesting than the front half. So much so that, yes, I am vaguely interested in reading the next in the series. I want to know what’s going to happen next with Blomkvist and Lisbeth.
The crimes in the Vanger family are gruesome. Sexual deviants and murder and such. However, told in this deadpan style, its hard to be shocked. However, if you think about it, this is quite twisted stuff. It makes me hesitant to say this is a great novel because there were these sick elements that I find quite disturbing. Writers/creators/artists who write about these things leave me a little wary because while I am not naive, I still think its weird for people to write what is classified as “entertainment” (i.e. fiction) to include these topics/subjects.