Sunday, August 29, 2010

My apologies to The Girl*

I don’t know how to say this, exactly. I don’t mean to be contrary, and I’m not looking to get all “mavericky” or anything. But I have to admit it, because I swore that if I was going to write a book blog I was going to be completely honest about my opinions. So here goes.

I didn’t enjoy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

There, I’ve said it.

It's not you, Girl. It's me. I just don't find carnage enjoyable.

To be exact, I didn’t enjoy two out of the three main storylines that comprise Stieg Larsson’s preternaturally popular novel. Actually, I thought the Wennerström story, the industrial corruption storyline that got our hero Mikael Blomkvist into so much trouble in the first place, was very well conceived and executed. If the book had focused on that line, it might have been one of my favorite books of the summer -- clever and confusing, in a very good way.

But the book didn't focus on that storyline. Instead, it wandered into some places I just don't really want to think about. I found the Vanger family storyline unnecessarily creepy and violent. And the storyline involving Lisbeth Salander’s evil guardian was absolutely disgusting.

(Larsson paints a very ugly picture of Swedish society. I’ve been to Sweden, and met such lovely people there. But after I finished this novel I was wondering if I hadn’t been lucky to escape Stockholm with my life.)

The plot moves along quickly, and the main characters are so compelling that you want to know what happens next. But from a storytelling standpoint, I found Larsson’s use of italics completely distracting. It’s as though he didn’t trust the reader:
“I’m serious Lisbeth. About splitting the money.”
“I’m serious too. I only want to borrow it, and I need it tomorrow.”
She didn’t even ask how much her share would be. (Kindle p. 9726)
I know she didn’t ask how much her share would be, because I was just party to the entire conversation. What ever happened to “show, don’t tell?” Maybe it's a translation issue, but it struck me as odd.

Obviously, the world hasn’t gone nuts over this novel for nothing though, and there are a lot of things to like here. One of them is Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist convicted of libel by a system that favors industry. God knows journalism could use a champion right about now, and Blomkvist might fit the bill. Larsson makes him a kind of Sam Spade without a gun. He has a shady personal life, but you get the idea that he’ll do the right thing in the end.

Master hacker Lisbeth Salander is the most unique character in the book. And I imagine she is responsible in large part for the book's worldwide appeal --there just isn't another character like her. She goes from victim to avenging angel to super spy in the course of the novel. I think the best part of the subsequent books would be watching that character grow. But considering what Larsson put her through in this book, I'm not sure I want to know what happens next.

As a mystery, this was a page turner, and if you don't mind the gore, I imagine this would be a really good read. But I don't think my stomach can handle another installment.

Sorry, Girl.

*I've been using the "Girl" reference for the series since I read it on "How Mysterious," so thanks, Karen.


  1. Oddly enough, I haven't even read The Girl yet. I've only seen the first movie. But based on that Lisbeth is my hero.

  2. She is an fantastic character, I agree. I think you have a stronger stomach than me -- I'm looking forward to your review.

  3. This is so funny! I join you in not falling in love with The Girl in the slightest, and I thought it was only me! I thought it was the hype I'd been reading about it. But, I thought it was about 400 pages too long, and I love long books; the gore was quite unsettling, and I was overall disappointed. My review is on my Wordpress blog, while I was there, but don't bother looking it up: it's practically verbatim to yours.

  4. That makes me feel so much better, Bellezza. Most of the blogs I follow loved the book -- and I can even see the appeal, to some extent. On the other hand, I even have to look away from the Black Knight scene when I watch Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so I guess this series isn't for me!


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