The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, was absolutely amazing! I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who loves mystery, suspense, thrill, and gripping characters. I would rate this book a 9/10–I couldn’t get enough of it. When I wasn’t reading, I felt guilty and constantly thought about the book. It has been a longggg time since I’ve had this kind of reaction and I couldn’t be more thankful to have read it.
This one starts off with Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist struggling with a libel conviction, who is taken under the wing of none other than Henrik Vanger, an old man suffering from the disappearance of his niece Harriet some forty years ago. With the help of the punk rock chic Lisbeth Salander, the two not only turn to solve the case together, but get caught up in so much more than they bargained for. This one will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the very end, with so much more to come than you could imagine. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo will not disappoint.
When I first picked up this book I was a little wary. Usually when there is a map and family tree in the front pages of the story I can sense that its going to get confusing and there are going to be tons of characters thrown around. Well the latter is true, but confusion never really hit me. I had to on occasion turn back to understand exactly who was who and how they were related, but you only get to know the characters you really need to at that point. Thank you Larsson for that.
TGWTDT is a commitment–700 pages of it. I had picked up my copy in August, dragging through the first 100 pages. I didn’t touch it again since I don’t have too much time to read at school and it seemed to have so much going on detail and depth-wise. I was overwhelmed. To be honest, that first chunk could have been condensed into one chapter and really wasn’t necessary for the storyline. But you just have to power through that! The story picks up pace and quickly–to the point where I finished it in three sittings of about 200 pages. I couldn’t believe how fast of a read it was, but Larsson kept me turning the pages. Although the main plot of the book is solved about 100 pages before the actual end (and I kept asking myself what he could possibly still have to write about?), the last 100 pages were important. But nonetheless, they could have been shortened as well.
Larsson is an amazing writer–he is able to balance the right amount of detail and action and dialogue throughout the entire novel (once you get past the beginning). He moves fast from one character narrating to the next, creating a fast-paced atmosphere to parallel that of the plot of the book. The book is given from the third person point of view, giving the narrator insight into Blomkvist’s and Salander’s lives and keeping you on your toes as he switches without telling you.
Some bigger topics he covers in this story include (but are not even close to limited to):
-Rape, sexual assault, abuse
You get the idea and it would take awhile to dissect all of these for you (plus give away spoilers). But this is just of the tip of iceberg for Larsson. And I know that seems like a lot crammed into one book, but it all fits together so seemingly effortless and its perfect. And it sounds contradictory, but he does so much with what seems like so little that presents itself in the beginning of the story–its tragic he has passed on. I strongly suggest you read it for yourself and see what you find–its chilling. I could see this book being read in high school classrooms as required reading (sort of a mix between The Scarlet Letter and Geek Love–both of which I had to read in high school and as for appropriateness aren’t too far off from what I read).
*Warning: If you feel uncomfortable, anxious, or repulsed reading about rape, sexual assault, or sadism (think Fifty Shades of Grey), then I would suggest not picking up this book. Although these scenes don’t take over the book by any means, they are still prominent and present, and can feel very real and intense.*
Although the title suggests that this book is focused on a girl with a dragon tattoo, in this case Lisbeth Salander, I found that it more so followed in the footsteps of Mikael Blomkvist and his life. Lisbeth doesn’t even truly come into the story until about 150 pages in. Interestingly enough, the book’s original Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women. And for as much as men do hate women in this book, I do not believe Mikael Blomkvist to be one of those men. He is a good guy, a genuinely nice guy who has made some mistakes and regrets in his past and with his family, but he is good. Larsson definitely contrasts him with the other men in this story–even those who seem generous, nice, and compromising can come out as corrupt. And as for the women, most are sexualized (not by Larsson, by his characters), or are somewhat crazy (even in a good way). The only formal, professional woman that we really see in this book is Erika Berger–who has her own odd marital relations. Nobody is normal. Everybody has secrets.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is a surprisingly quick read, filled with all kinds of chaos and turns of events you won’t see coming. It will leave you questioning what is going to happen every step of the way and then surprise you. I can’t wait to pick up some of Larsson’s other work and compare!
I also plan to see the film adaptation and compare my thoughts on that as well soon.