I have finally caved into the hype that surrounds The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. Everywhere I go people are reading the Millennium series, and I admit, the hype did put me off. However, five years after its first publication and in an effort to change my reading habits and embrace popular, contemporary fiction, I thought I’d give it a shot.
This is a book that I almost didn’t finish. But this is not a bad review.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a book of two halves. The first 10 or 11 chapters progressed at a snail’s pace. There are pages and pages and PAGES of back story, as disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist investigates the disappearance of industrialist Henrik Vanger’s grand-daughter 36-years ago.
Characters are introduced through seemingly unrelated threads of plot. Each character comes with their own history, particularly where the establishment of the Vanger family tree was concerned, and I did question whether this level of detail was entirely necessary. At times, the plot was stagnant, and with two plots at work (the Vanger mystery and the Wennerström affair), I wasn’t sure where the story was going.
Linguistically, it’s nothing special. The prose is straightforward: there no decorative words, extravagantly crafted sentences or paragraphs of imagery, and this is not a bad thing, but it is a style of writing that I have become unfamiliar with over the years. The title also confused me. So, Lisbeth Salander has a dragon tattoo, so what? It bears no relevance to the plot and is mentioned merely once or twice. The translated Swedish title is Men Who Hate Women: a bold, brave and relevant title that might have made me pick this book up five years ago.
The plot picked up pace about 200 pages in, and an inexplicable force kept me gripped! When the action kicked in, boy, did it kick in: the book went from being stagnant to vibrant, with the story moving so rapidly that I almost couldn’t keep up! I breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is by no means perfect: but it is most definitely thrilling. The characters are superb, and security specialist and computer hacker Lisbeth Salander, is especially refreshing. The level of character detail that I originally questioned, was worth it in the end.
Aside from the brilliantly executed ‘who-dun-it’ mystery, the developing relationships between characters was pure indulgence, and added some extra excitement. The strange relationship between Erika Berger, editor-in-chief at Millennium, her husband,Greger Beckman, and her best-friend Blomkvist, is a particularly compelling one. Erika and Mikael have a public, long-term sexual relationship and Greger just gets on with it! The developing will-they-won’t-they between Salander and Blomkvist, and the touching but underdeveloped relationship between Salander and her boss, Dragan Armansky, are fascinating.
Ultimately, this was a thoroughly enjoyably read. So enjoyable in fact, that my book remains intact and hasn’t been defaced with pen marks and post-its: so caught up was I in the story, that I rarely made notes. I urge anyone who is disillusioned with the first part of this book, to not give up!
I want to, no, I CAN’T WAIT to read the next one…