Thursday, 10 February 2011

[018] The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

What the Back of the Book Has to Say:

The Industrialist

Henrik Vanger, head of the dynastic Vanger Corporation, is tormented by the loss of a child decades earlier and convinced that a member of his family has committed murder.

The Journalist

Mikael Blomkvist delves deep into the Vangers' past to uncover the truth behind the unsolved mystery. But someone else wants the past to remain a secret and will go to any lengths to keep it that way.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Lisbeth Salander, the enigmatic, delinquent and dangerous security specialist, assists in the investigation. A genius computer hacker, she tolerates no restrictions placed upon her by individuals, society or the law.

Why I Picked It Up:

This book is a phenomenon. It felt like God had placed it on the shelf for me, as a reward for finishing Doctor Zhivago

What I Think:

They say that you have to get a hundred pages into The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo before you really get into it. However, once you pass that mark, it is one of those intense, can't-put-it-down novels that have you on the edge of your seat. I have heard that statement from pretty much every source: friends, family, random reviews on the internet. Considering this is one of the top selling novels of the past year and everyone and their mom seems to have read it, I figured it must be true.

Now I think that those estimates may be a little off. There definitely is a period you have to struggle through the novel before it hits a good pace but a hundred pages is a bit naive. It took me about two hundred pages, if not two hundred and fifty, until I found myself intrigued enough to continue reading outside of the train, at the stoplight, waiting to pick up my dinner at the bento shop. The hundred page mark is rather significant, plotwise, but if you're looking for the can't-stop-reading mark, I would say it was definitely around the two hundred mark.

One of the reasons this is is the very nature of the narrative of the novel. There are two main characters: Mikael Blomkvist, the financial reporter who gets indicted for libel in the first ten pages and Lisbeth Salander, the vaguely punk rock, takes nothing from nobody character who works for a security firm. The main problem is that they don't meet each other until around page 250. Before that, the novel is constantly mixing perspective with different storylines. The first one hundred pages gives you a background on both Blomkvist and Salander, giving you a taste of the kind of people they are and what some of their motivations are before actually getting them involved in the mystery.

Now, once the mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger begins, the book really picks up. The case is forty years old and seemingly a beyond dead end but clues come up and strange occurrences happen and it's all very exciting. The problem is that you have to make it to that point and I know a lot of people that have given up before getting that far. To those people, I can only say: Try again! Even if the characters don't appeal to you (and I will get to that in a second), the mystery is definitely interesting enough to at least give it a try. If at page 300 you're still on the fence, then I can forgive putting it down. But at least get to the Bible references! You'll know what I mean when you get there and, hopefully, thank me.

With all that being said, I do have to admit that I'm not entirely in love with the characters in this book. Blomkvist has a few faults that rub me the wrong way but, as a detective character, he is intriguing enough to read about. As much as I hate to admit it, it's Salander who gets on my nerves the most. I know that there is much debate about whether she is a feminist character or not and here is my little take on that issue. Personally, her character feels (to me) like Larsson trying too hard. She has piercings and short black hair and wears shirts with slogans like "I can be a regular bitch. Just try me." on them. She is bisexual, she is not afraid of getting violent revenge on anyone who wrongs her (or, indeed, anyone who just kind of irks her) and her emotions are very black and white. Basically, she feels like a grown up child of the Hot Topic generation. I don't even want to touch the strange tilt in her personality that plays up in the last fifty or so pages of the novel. It's so out of character and, frankly, annoying so as to turn me off of whatever I found understandable about her character.

This isn't to say I didn't like the novel because I did. I'm looking forward to trying to read the other two novels in the series if I ever get the chance. It was a highly addictive mystery. But I don't know if you should really be looking to this book for kickass role models because you might find yourself a little put out.

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