Book 18: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Millennium Trilogy: Part One

Book Title: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Men Who Hate Women)
Author: Stieg Larsson (Reg Keeland translation)
Published: 2005 (English 2008)
Pages: 841
Category: fiction: crime, fiction

I don’t normally read mysteries, crime novels, those sorts of things. I’m not sure quite why, I like the format – and I love watching mysteries and crime solving tv shows – Bones, House, Castle, The Mentalist, CSI for a long time, though not anymore. As long as the dialogue is worth it, and the mysteries solved not too predictably, I’m all for it. But usually not in print.

It might have something to do with trying to keep the characters in order, and missing details as I hurriedly read to get to the end of the story, to solve the mystery.

I’d heard the hype surrounding The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo but hadn’t actively sought out the book, when I received it as a birthday present in March. It was May before I picked it up, facing the prospect of a flight to and from Toronto, and not wanting to take too many books with me (as you can see from previous posts, I ended up buying a fair amount of books on that trip despite my best efforts not to…)

Though the story is complicated, and it takes a great effort and a great many pages to set the stage, it is ultimately the characters that kept me involved in the story. Lisbeth Salander kicks ass. Mikael Blomkvist is the type of dedicated, true to his convictions journalist that gives me faith in our society’s media, and character after character is revealed to be detailed, and layered.

The original Swedish title of this novel is Men Who Hate Women and despite being largely based on one murder case, the themes, occurrences, and plot of the novel is explicitly about this subject. We meet characters who are revolting in their pure hatred of women, and who do things that are the stuff of nightmares – but that are also far too common in their prevalence in the ‘real world’. On the flipside of this equation though, we meet characters dedicated to righting wrongs, characters who are just as disgusted as the reader is at the crimes committed and gotten away with.

It is a mix of corporate espionage, family disfunction, the breakdown of basic social protections, and of prejudice and misogyny. It is a powerful book with powerful characters, and a powerful message.

We see Salander operate in ways that illuminate how the government can truly fail people when rights are stripped away of a person who no one would listen too. Much of it is a comment on mental health and society’s perception of those who are different from the norm.

“In her world, this was the natural order of things. As a girl she was legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.” (327)

Social status in the true sense of the world. Not as in the High School definition, but truly a citizen without the rights of citizenship. Someone who doesn’t count.

One other thing that I particularly liked about this book, this book that focusses so much on violence, and dysfunctional human relationships, is that it has an equal place for love. In a book that depicts a very graphic seen of sexual assault, we also have scenes of tenderness between men and women, scenes of sex without violence. And contemplations of love.

“What she had realised was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst.” (833)

it’s also a very mac-friendly book. and that made me happy.

*    *    *

Stay tuned – The next two books in the series to come later this week!


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