For Christmas, the teacher I work with gave me all 3 books in Steig Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy. The first of these is The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
It took me about 3 weeks to read — I don’t have tons of time to just sit around reading — like I often wish I did, so I read it mostly in 15 minute to 1/2 hour snatches of time. I did manage a couple of times where my reading was uninterrupted for about an hour, but mostly I had to read on the fly.
I had high expectations for these books, because I’d heard so much about them. Steig Larsson, who I know nothing about, comes off as some kind of wunderkind, or literary folk-hero because he died so abruptly and left behind an unfinished fourth book that has something to do with this series. It is tragic that he died, but before these books and movies hit the big-time I had never heard of him. That said, he is, in my opinion, a good writer, not a great writer.
I enjoyed Girl, but it took almost a third of the book before I did. In fact, I was about ready to call it quits — I’ve said before that I can’t waste my time reading something that is boring or seems to be going nowhere — and that is what this book was like in the beginning. I’m glad I hung in there, though, and I realized once I got past that dull first third that everything Larsson had bored me with was essential to the story that was coming.
It’s easy to tell that Larsson was a journalist — it comes across in his writing — and really shows in the parts of the book where he is describing the world of financial journalism — I tried not to let this detract from the rest of the story as I read. The plot, setting and flow of the novel is cleanly and clearly laid out, you can see how he must have written each part separately and then seamed them together. This, more than anything, (once you get past the first third of the book) is what makes this book a fast, easy read.
Although there is a large cast of characters in this novel, the two main ones, Mikael Blomkvist (I stumbled over that last name each time I read it) and Lisbeth Salander (somehow I always thought ‘salamander’) are never lost, though it takes a long time for us to get to know Lisbeth. Which was weird for me seeing as she is the girl in the title of the book. I don’t quite know why Larsson chose to center the books on her, as it seems to me most of the story was about Blomkvist. Lisbeth was secondary — she is drawn in, eventually, to help him in his quest to solve a decades-old crime and clear his name after a libel conviction.
I can’t say I ever came to really care for either of these main characters. They’re too, oh, I don’t know, character-y-ish. Mikael is good-looking, normal, hard-working, full of integrity. I imagined George Clooney. Lisbeth is quirky, conflicted, haunted, edgy, border-line psychotic. I imagined a young Juliette Lewis with hair dyed black. Though I say I never came to care about them, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t interested in them. Larsson puts them in some pretty scary predicaments and gives enough background about them that you can’t help wanting to know what will happen to them, but, in the end, they never felt like real people to me.
And, though the title says she is the girl with the dragon tattoo, we never get to know the reference behind that. I guess it has something to do with her toughness and fiery determination — but that sounds like too much of a cliché.
Oh, and something else about these books — sex. It’s like Larsson wanted us all to know how crucial sex is to one’s ability to have a healthy, meaningful life. And that European’s are not all hung up about sex the way North American’s are. It’s okay to have multiple partners, and open marriages and bisexual relationships. And anytime you’re not feeling quite right — well just hop into bed and, though problem not solved, you’ll just start to feel better after some good ol’ wholesome sex.
All in all, I would say that these books, at least the first one, are a good read for the beach or during a week-long holiday. I’m reading something else before I pick up the second book The Girl Who Played With Fire. I need a break from all those Swedish hard-to-read, harder-to-say names.