Friday, July 2, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

This book was recommended to me so I kept the title in the back of my head for awhile. Then a friend of mine mentioned she took it with her on a trip to New York and thought an afternoon reading in Central Park would be nice. She sat on a bench and noticed that there were girls to her left and right and they were both reading this book! I decided it was time to jump on the bandwagon and check it out at the library. Problem was, the wait list was so long, there were 345 people ahead of me in line. With a 3 week check out period, that's almost 20 years of waiting to get this book. So I borrowed it from my work library, of all places. Apparently, this book is everywhere.

The story follows a year in the life of journalist Mikael Blomkvist. After losing a court battle and facing jail time, Blomkvist decides to take a leave from his magazine and accept a temporary work assignement from Henrik Vanger. Vanger wants him to ostensibly write a family chronicle but his real assignment is to investigate a 36 year old family mystery of the disappearance of his grand-niece. In the course of his investigation, Blomkvist meets Lisbeth Salander, a troubled young woman with a knack for investigation. Together they delve into the Vanger family history as well as some other mysteries involving Salander and Blomkvist's personal lives.

In a nutshell, I think the book is overrated. Most people I've talked to agree that the book is slow to start and picks up after about a hundred pages or so. As you read on, the book continually picks up steam until I found myself not wanting to put it down for the last hundred pages or so. At 590 pages though, that's a lot to get through before I can't put a book down.

Honestly, I think reading about the author himself is more interesting. Steig Larsson was a journalist, as well as a political activist. He was considered an expert in Swedish extreme right and racist organizations. A quick online search will reveal a lot of interesting stories and rumors about his life - too many to go into here. When Larrson died of a heart attack in 2004, he left behind three unpublished manuscripts, of which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first. It was published in 2005 in Sweden and translated several years later into English. The original title in Swedish is Men Who Hate Women. I wished I knew that before I started reading the book. It really is a better title. Maybe knowing that would have made the book better too?

My recommendation? Everyone's talking about it anyway, so you might as well read it. Hell, it's summer and this is one of those reads. Just don't buy it or borrow it from the library. Ask a friend for it, chances are, you know someone who has read it.

Reviewed by Cathy

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