Present word count of WIP: 57,034
Stieg Larsson’s original version of the suspense novel, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, was to have been titled Men Who Hate Women (in Swedish, of course). And that may be all you need to know in order to look beyond the plot in this story for a theme.
While it has been praised all over the world and even won several awards, I have to say I was disappointed. After having just read The Silence of the Lambs, so tightly written with the type of spare and sometimes poetic prose I love, Larrson’s book felt dense and cumbersome. And I was confused about the quoted statistics regarding violence against women which began each new section…until I discovered his original title. This is definitely a book that is not nice to women, but fortunately an unlikely heroine arises to defend her gender.
Of course, this novel was edited and translated after Larsson died, so who knows how closely it hues to his original vision. It would have been interesting to see how the book might have fared had it been published before the author’s death.
For me, the main problem was that he had a terrific family saga mystery wrapped in the distant world of Swedish high finance. And that’s an Achilles heel for me. Anytime I start reading or hearing about economics, business, and numbers, my eyes glaze over and my brain tends to want to shut off. I would have enjoyed the book a lot more had he minimized the corporate world stuff and amped up the personal family story. (By “amping” I mean increasing the pacing.)
The opening Prologue was terrific because it honed in on the central mystery, intriguing the reader without giving away much. But then the story veered off into the corporate stuff in order to introduce the finance reporter who ends up tasked with solving the family mystery. My interest didn’t pick up again until about 30 pages in when the tattooed girl, Lisbeth Salander, is finally introduced.
Any time she was in a scene I was hooked. Any time she wasn’t, I found myself missing her. She’s that strong of a character. (I wasn’t surprised to learn later in the book that she’s likely on the autism spectrum.) The reporter was really quite bland in comparison and yet he appears to be the protagonist, since he takes up most of the book. Once they’re teamed to solve the mystery of the missing/dead girl (which only happens about two thirds of the way through the book), the pace finally begins to pick up.
Then, after the mystery’s solved, Larsson brings back the corporate stuff so the reporter can get his revenge on the corrupt financier who had sued him in the first place…but it takes away from the power that was in essence returned to women in the conclusion of the mystery.
In sum, I don’t understand why this was the huge hit that it was. The novel was too drawn-out and disjointed for my taste, not to mention it had some offensive scenes I skipped over. I’m giving it three stars.
Still, there were some quotes I liked:
“Normally seven minutes of another person’s company was enough to give her a headache so she set things up to live as a recluse. She was perfectly content as long as people left her in peace. Unfortunately society was not very smart or understanding.”
“Everyone has secrets. It’s just a matter of finding out what they are.”
“Friendship – my definition – is built on two things. Respect and trust. Both elements have to be there. And it has to be mutual. You can have respect for someone, but if you don’t have trust, the friendship will crumble.”
If you’ve read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I’d love to hear what you thought. Did it hold your interest the whole way? Who was the real protagonist?
Next on my list: James Patterson’s Kiss the Girls . . . I’m expecting a fast read, so I’ll be reviewing it next Thursday.