Friday, September 10, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Millennium Trilogy, by Stieg Larsson, Translated from Swedish to English by Reg Keeland
1. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, 09.09.10 * * * *

As I've said before, I was not looking forward to reading this series.  I've heard the hype, everybody loves it, yada yada best book ever blah blah. But it just didn't sound like it was up my alley, so to speak, so I never picked it or borrowed it from the Library.  I just didn't care, and I didn't think I would enjoy it.

Boy, was I wrong!

This is a fascinating, complex, and extremely well written novel, filled with interesting and vibrant characters that you want to know more about.  It starts out slow - almost glacially slow - but that doesn't last long, thank goodness!

It starts with financial journalist and co-owner of the Millennium Magazine, Mikael Blomkvist, watching his career crumble to dust after losing a libel lawsuit.  When a stranger approaches with a job offer that may help clear his name and credibility, he reluctantly agrees to research a decades-old mystery - the disappearance of a young teen-age girl - under the guise of writing a biography of a prominent industrial family.  Mikael begins, not expecting to find anything that wasn't caught in the original investigation, but with the help of Lisbeth Salander he realizes that not everything is as it appears. She's a strange girl with tattoos, piercings, and a ton of issues - but she's also a genius, has a photographic memory, and is one of the best computer hackers alive.  Together they stumble on several clues that were never recognized as such at the time of the disappearance, and eventually their probings and questions start hitting too close to home and their own lives become endangered.

Larsson writes beautifully, (although I'm not sure how much of the flow is due to the original author and how much is due to the translator), and even the slow parts flow rather nicely.  There were several scenes that I wasn't really sure why they were included - hearing the details of Mikael's endless walks around the island and his shopping trips in the village weren't really strictly necessary, but I suppose they did contribute something to the general pacing of the novel.  Mikael spends months researching but not really learning anything, and wondering if he should just give up, and you do sort of feel his lethargy.  Once the pace of the story picks up though, it grabs you by the back of the neck and compels you to follow at breakneck speed, scrambling to keep up.  I stayed up far too late, too many nights in a row simply because I couldn't put the damn book down!

Larrson's writing skills are also evident in his creation of Lisbeth, a girl with so many contradictions, flaws, and annoying habits that one doesn't expect to like her at all.  She's ruthless and uncaring, and doesn't let anyone close to her.  Her sections of the story tend to be written in tense, short, machine-gun burst  sentences that I think give the reader a feeling of what it's like to be in her head.  Oddly, I came to love her part of the story the most.

Basically this was an amazing story where nothing is what is seems, everything and everyone are suspect, appearances are deceiving, and perspectives are vital to understanding.  What seems like a threat may just be a kindness, or the kind act a threat.  The novel explores themes of sexuality, crime, mental illness, friendship, and the damaging effects of neglect and violence against women.  It's not an easy read, and makes you really think about the story and the themes it represents.  This is not the type of book that I would typically re-read, which is why it only gets 4 stars, but this is definitely a story that should not be missed!

If you've read this book, please leave a comment below and tell me what you thought!


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