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Friday, November 5, 2010

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

by Stieg Larsson
600 pages
translated from Swedish


*** About the Book ***

The Girl with the Dragon TattooFinancial journalist Mikael Blomkvist is in trouble.  His magazine, Millennium, published an expose he wrote about a dirty industrialist named Wennerstrom.  Wennerstrom in turned sued Mikael ... and won.  Now Mikael has been convicted of libel and sentenced to 90 days in prison.  He's also taking a leave of absence from the magazine to allow it to recover. At this very low point in his life he's offered a freelancing job by a wealthy, retired industrialist named Vanger.  Vanger's beloved niece disappeared over 40 years ago, possibly at the hands of another family member.  Vanger is an old man and wants Mikael to find out the truth about the disappearance before he (Vanger) dies.

Then we have Lisbeth Salandar, a secretive 20-something who freelances as a background investigator.  Her work bring her into contact with Mikael and the other main players in the Millennium, Wennerstom, and Vanger dramas.


*** Why I Read It ***

I'd never have picked this up if not for my book club; it was chosen as our November book.  It was impossible to get it from the library considering that there were 224 people who'd reserved it prior!  So I purchased it via the Kindle App on my phone and read it that way.


*** My Thoughts ***

It is clear that this book was meant to be the start of a series.  Like many other firsts-in-a-series it spends a great deal of time setting up character background.  It was slow going for a while but when I looked at it as part of a series rather than an individual book I  was able to enjoy the journey.

That said, the story didn't really pick up until more than half of the book had elapsed, though at that point things began to happen very quickly.  I guessed the solution to one of the big mysteries long before the truth was revealed, which could be a good thing or a bad thing; it means that the climax didn't come out of nowhere but it also means that part of the story was a bit predictable.

The author's wording choices often seemed awkward to me, but this could be the fault of the translator rather than the author.  Still, some portions were consistently difficult to read. Lisbeth's dialogue is a good example.  One line reads as follows: "If you even try to hurt me I'll have to do you an injury. You'll be sorry."  See what I mean?  Can you actually imagine someone speaking those words? Also, the word "anon" was used quite often.  I wonder if the translation of that word is common in Sweden or if the translator could have picked a better word in English. 

I don't read a lot in the mystery/thriller genre so this is definitely not a book I'd have picked up on my own.  That said, it was pretty good (though slow to start) and I enjoyed it.  What I don't get is why this book is so wildly popular.  Is it really that different from others in the genre?  It didn't seem so to me, but again I don't read a lot in this genre. It wasn't a bad book but it wasn't a great book either.  I just don't get the reason for all the hype ...

WARNING: There is a fair bit of sexual violence in this book.  Sexual harassment of women is one of the main themes, and Larsson reiterates this fact by quoting crime statistics at the beginning of each book division in addition to includes it in the various plots.


*** The Movie Version ***

I haven't seen the movie yet but I do plan to.  Like I said in my warning above though, there IS a lot of sexual violence in this book.  I'm not sure how that will be played on in the movie and I'm very leery of it.  Here's the official trailer if you want to check it out:




*** Your Thoughts ***
  • What, exactly, is it about this book that made it such a huge hit?  It is really that different from other mystery/thriller novels? 
  • Did anyone have the same thoughts regarding the translation?  
  • For those who have read the rest of the series, is it worth continuing? 
  • For those saw the movie, what did you think of it?

22 comments:

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I think I am one of the few who enjoyed the first half of the book. The Vanger family was just so extensive that I kept losing track of them and I just didn't enjoy them as much. I got a little frustrated with all the similar names and backgrounds.

I enjoyed the book and will probably read the others in the series, eventually, but it's not like I had to run right out and get the next one immediately. I think sometimes it is just luck of the draw as to what catches on and what doesn't.

mominsanity said...

Yes, continue with this series! It has more "story" regarding Lisbeth and Mikael in it! I didn't have a problem with the translation because I was so fascinated with Lisbeth and the story itself...

As far as the movie - I have seen both The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire - the Swedish language movies - and highly recommend them. They are somewhat graphic in parts (I'm sure that you know which parts now that you've read the book) but I would still watch them. Enjoy!

bermudaonion said...

I haven't read this one yet - I think I've avoided it because it is so popular and I don't want the hype to affect my enjoyment of it.

Trisha said...

This one has been on my wish list for quite a while, but I haven't been moved to pick it up yet. Maybe I knew the word 'anon' would be in it; I am definitely not a fan of that word.

Heather J. said...

Nicole - I didn't DISLIKE the first half, it was just a bit slow. Honestly I kept thinking it was like the world-building that epic fantasy authors do in their first books ...

mominsanity - Thanks for the movie info. I'll most likely watch them but it will have to be at a time when Kiddo is not around for sure!

bermudaonion - That's usually how I am with "famous" books, but when book club picks it there's not much choice. :)

Trisha - Yeah, you might have the same issues with the language that I did. I really wish I knew whether it was the author or the translator who is at fault ...

softdrink said...

Don't bother with the rest of the series. Book 2 was entertaining in parts, but I never managed to finish book 3. His descriptions of minute details such as the characters shoes bored me to tears and I gave up.

Nan said...

I just loved your take on this. I loved it that you wrote about it as if it were just another book instead of this huge media thing it has become. I haven't read it, and don't plan to because of the caveat you noted. I can just go so far in my reading of gross stuff. :<) Thanks for a really great review, Heather.

Amy said...

I also wondered why it was so popular, and most people seem to think it's because Lisbeth Salandar is this very unique character. I enjoyed it, but I also haven't read the next books, yet! I think the whole tragedy of how he passed away before seeing any of this feeds into it as well.

Heather J. said...

softdrink - I don't know, I might still enjoy book 2 ... we don't always agree on books, but shoe descriptions do sound terribly boring!

Nan - Yeah, I don't think this book would be a good fit for you - it is a bit graphic in parts! [And it's nice to see you back again - I've missed hearing from you.:)]

Amy - The death of an author does have a tendency to bring extra attention to a book (or series), that's for sure. And Lisbeth IS very unique, but honestly I think her uniqueness comes across more clearly in the movie (at least from the what I can tell in the trailer) than in the book.

Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I havent' seen the movies yet and I am starting to read this one for my bookclub too. I was told it would be slow and not to give up. I'm looking forward to reading it but I don't want it to take a bunch of my time. I sometimes don't want to read what everryone else is reading. i'm weird that way. :)

Heather J. said...

Michelle - I'm like that too - I hate being "a part of the crowd." I don't think it will take a bunch of time to read, just expect not a lot to happen for a long time. Other than that it isn't bad. :)

Alyce said...

I've avoided this book because of the subject matter, and was hoping that I wasn't missing out on something spectacular. Your review confirms my thoughts that it's not something I can't live without (especially since our reading tastes are very similar).

Trish said...

Yes! My thoughts exactly. The weird translation made it impossible for me to keep reading this book. I have no idea what all the fuss is about.

Here's the review I posted. It's more of a 'sort of' review since I didn't get past the first 200 pages.

http://desktopretreat.blogspot.com/2010/07/ehn.html

Teacher/Learner said...

This one is on my TBR shelf, mostly because I gave in to its monstrous popularity :D Sounds intriguing nonetheless...Have a great weekend!

Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Thanks for the thorough review Heather. I hope to read ALL (3) books when I have (10) days off between Christmas and New Years - can't wait.

Heather J. said...

Alyce - I don't know if you'd DISLIKE it but you're definitely not missing out on anything spectacular.

Trish - Thanks for linking to your review! I just read it and I agree about the translation - they really need to redo it.

Teacher/Learner - I hope you enjoy it! Don't let your expectations get too high though.

Bibliophile By The Sea - Ooh I love doing that (reading a series in a row over just a few days) - I hope you have fun with it!

Marie said...

i enjoyed the book but I agree with you about the pacing. someone warned me about it before i started so I was prepared. As far as the movie, there isn't a huge amount of sex or violence but there is some. Lisbeth's rape scenes are hard to take. But a lot more is implied than is shown as far as the murders. It's very creepy but very well-done. I will say that her relationship with Blomquist is cast in a different light in the movie, which you may or may not like. Blomquist is not the lothario in the movie that he is in the book as well. I didn't mind it and it still felt true to the characters for me. I thought Larsson did a great job with psychological realism in the book and that's carried over on to the movie.

Heather J. said...

Marie - I didn't think of Blomkvist as a lothario ... more like someone who equates friendship with sex, if that makes sense. Thanks for the details about the movie - knowing that a lot takes place off-screen makes me feel quite a bit better about watching it.

Marg said...

I think the big deal with this book really revolves around Lisbeth, as she certainly is quite an arresting and pretty much unique character. I did love these books, although there were times when there was too much on the Swedish political history, and police procedures etc.

I relaly need to make an effort to go and see the second movie. Even with the changes they made, the first movie was very good.

Heather J. said...

Marg - See, and I actually enjoyed the Swedish history/politics portion. :) And yet I didn't feel drawn to Lisbeth in particular. Maybe because I didn't identify in any way with her? I think the movie preview did more to interest me in her character than reading the entire book did ...

Beth F said...

I don't know -- maybe it was the audio version, but I was really taken in by the story and the character of Lisbeth. Of course, I haven't read the second two books yet, so maybe that says something.

Heather J. said...

Beth F - I'm betting parts of it would have been better on audio, but the dialogue didn't sound "off" to you as you listened? That is really surprising to me.

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