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REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Dear Readers,

My husband and I have lately been reading to each other in lieu of watching television. Recently we finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Yes, I'm aware that I’m the last person on Planet Earth to read this book but I thought that it might be worth reviewing regardless.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Stieg LarssonThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, for those few who don't know, takes place in Sweden around 2003. Mikael Blomkvist, one of the book's two protagonists, is an investigative journalist who, early on in the story, is found guilty of libel for an article he wrote about a financier named Wennerstrom. As a result, Blomkvist is sentenced to three months in jail and a hefty fine, as well as forced to resign from Millennium, the magazine he founded with his friend and lover, Erika Berger.

Soon afterwards, Blomkvist is contacted by Dirch Frode, an attorney representing a mysterious client with an even more mysterious job offer for Blomkvist. Frode reveals that his client is elderly and infirm, and cannot travel to Stockholm, so Blomkvist will have to come to Hedestad to meet with him and hear about the job offer in person. On learning that he client is none other than Henrik Vanger, a former "captain of industry" who once headed the Vanger Corporation, Blomkvist is intrigued despite himself.

Eventually, Blomkvist agrees to meet with Vanger, and learns that Vanger wants him to, under the guise of writing a biography of the Vanger family, investigate the disappearance of Vanger's niece, Harriet, nearly four decades before.

Harriet disappeared in 1966 at age sixteen, during a family reunion. Since the family was gathered on Hedeby island and the bridge to the mainland was closed due to an accident when Harriet vanished, Vanger believes that Harriet was murdered. Not only that, he is convinced that it was a member of the family who killed her, and that the same murderer is the person sending him a pressed flower each year on his birthday as Harriet used to do.

Blomkvist is drawn in by the story in spite of his better judgment but not even the small fortune Vanger offers as compensation is enough to get him to accept the job. It's not until Vanger offers him some information on Wennerstrom in exchange for his solving the mystery that Blomkvist agrees to take the job.

The book cuts back and forth between Blomkvist's storyline and that of Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is first introduced as the researcher hired by Frode to investigate Blomkvist for Vanger. As she tells Frode, Lisbeth reaches the conclusion, after looking into Blomkvist, that Blomkvist is above board and was set up for his libel conviction somehow.

Lisbeth, the pierced, tattooed girl of the title, is an intriguing character. Bright, fierce and antisocial, she might at first glance, owing to her slender frame and her non-communicativeness, seem like easy prey, but she does not hesitate to defend herself when the need arises, as it does in this book. Lisbeth does not trust many people, and there appears to be some trauma in her past. Not much is said about that in this book, but I suspect more will be revealed in later books – although, since the author passed away before he could finish this series, I don't know how much.

Blomkvist too, is interesting and though not as different as Lisbeth, still somewhat unlike many mystery detectives. For one thing, he has an on again, off again relationship with the married Erika Berger, whose husband knows about the relationship and puts up with it. When Berger is with her husband, Blomkvist sees other women, making no secret of the fact that Erika is part of his life.

While I found Blomkvist and Berger's relationship fascinating (if not exactly romantic), I never fully understood why these two weren’t married or at least living together. They seemed to have a great rapport and to love each other. They couldn’t stay away from one another, to a point where it had broken up Blomkvist's marriage. The explanation that they couldn't get along well when living together was unconvincing to me, since we never saw them living together and since they had a great deal in common.

Blomkvist and Lisbeth's interactions, once they met, captured my attention as well. I really liked the way Larsson switched the traditional gender roles when it came to their personalities, making Lisbeth the strong, silent, unforgiving type, and Blomkvist more gentle, understanding and nurturing. This extended to some of their actions in the major plot turns and even to their attitude toward housework – Blomkvist was neat and Lisbeth a complete slob.

The resolution to the mystery was disappointing to me. Major spoilers hidden below:

[spoiler]First, I thought the concept of two serial killers in the same family wasn’t very credible. The book would not have been nearly as entertaining with just one killer but serial killers are so rare, and as a rule they don’t have children. That aspect of the book seemed really far-fetched.

Second, I was mystified as to why neither Blomkvist nor Lisbeth thought to search out information about the Vanger family members and match their whereabouts on the dates of the women’s deaths to the locations of the murders much sooner — as soon as they learned the identities of the victims.

Third, Blomkvist, taking a page right out of the TSTL romantic suspense heroine handbook, walked right into the villain's house after having identified that person as the villain.

Finally, while I liked learning Harriet's fate at the end, the explanation of why the pressed flowers were sent to Henrik was completely unconvincing.[/spoiler]

In addition to this, some of the events near the end of the book left me feeling that Blomkvist was a Marty Stu (male Mary Sue) in many ways and even Salander was perhaps too gifted, though in her case, her social impediments served to make her more of a mix of talents and impairments and therefore more believable.

The things I like best about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo were the Swedish setting and the fact that it was a psychological story as well as a mystery. The first clue to the mystery doesn't become evident to Blomkvist until a good part of the way into this 600 page book, so what kept me turning the pages wasn't just the mystery but also the relationships, especially those within the Vanger family and between Blomkvist and the people in his life.

Larsson reveals those relationships gradually, but for all its slow, measured pacing, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo sucked me in and kept me reading. Despite the aforementioned plot holes, I'm thinking of reading further in this series, and given how rarely I am drawn into same-protagonist series, it makes me feel that Larsson did something right. B/B+ for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Sincerely,

Janine

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These books are part of the price war in the UK: Amazon and WH Smith are selling the book for around 2.50 pounds.

Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

47 Comments

  1. Nat
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 14:26:55

    I haven’t been this excited for a book since Harry Potter (I know, totally different beast). I read the Millenium series in French first (those covers are HORRENDOUS, people in charge, do something), and then in English. It’s an awesome story and Lisbeth doth rule.

  2. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 14:38:34

    @Nat: It was very engrossing and entertaining. I can totally see why the books are such huge bestsellers. I think Lisbeth in particular has struck a chord.

    I forgot to mention for those who are sensitive to violence that the book is violent, but I emphatically disagree with some critics who say that it glorifies violence against women. Robin, Keishon and I were just discussing that on Twitter yesterday and we all agreed that that was an unfair criticism.

  3. Cathy in AK
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 14:45:23

    Great review.

    I didn’t have any problems with the Blomkvist-Berger relationship. They seemed like friends with benefits who loved each other but weren’t *in* love. And since both realized that, if it was okay with them it was okay with me.

    The spoiler points you made about the mystery were right on. This wasn’t the best mystery I’d read, but there were some good thriller moments and the relationship built between Blomkvist and Salander was interesting.

    What a character, that Lisbeth Salander! She is totally like “whoa and damn!” You do find out more about her in “The Girl Who Played with Fire.” As with “Dragon Tattoo,” however, the beginning is a bit slow. But stick with it. You won’t be sorry : )

  4. Tiffany Clare
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 14:48:10

    I really loved this book. (Will read the second as soon as I have time.) The only thing I didn’t like was how the villain totally fell flat, and became this two-dimensional creation. And I won’t say more in fear of a spoiler. But I think it’s believable that Blomkvist and Salander didn’t do a thorough search for anyone that could not be placed on the island.

    Also, I don’t like blatant clues in a mysteries (this must be why I don’t read them often). They shadowed Salander’s life with clues from Blomkvist’s uncoverings as to what happened in Harriet’s past, that made it clear what had happened. Again, won’t say because it’s a spoiler… but seriously, if you can’t figure it out…

    I’ll say, all the financial business guru stuff in the first two hundred pages almost made it an unbearable read, so I’m glad I made it over that hump.

    And I liked the relationship between Salander and Blomkvist–(as for Berger and Blomkvist, I think they had great chemistry and friendship, it’ll be interesting to see if it lasts through the books, because Blomkvist is rather intriqued by Salander)–and thought it believable. He said it at one point… she seemed like a girl with Aspergers. I have to agree. I’m really looking forward in seeing how the story unfolds in the next two books.

  5. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 14:57:36

    @Cathy in AK: It wasn’t a problem with the Berger-Blomkvist relationship, just that their rapport was so great, their interactions so loving, and their temperaments so even-keeled that I couldn’t buy the explanation Larsson gave which was that they would make each other miserable in a more permanent relationship. I just didn’t see anything in their interactions to indicate that, and they seemed so right for each other to me. So it was a case of the author telling me one thing, but showing something else.

    Thanks for the tip about The Girl Who Played with Fire. I will make a point to stick with it past the beginning.

  6. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 15:05:39

    @Tiffany Clare: Agree that the villain lacked dimension and the foreshadowing got a bit heavy-handed at times.

    The financial stuff didn’t bore me at all, but the book did get even more compelling after Blomkvist arrived in Hedestad.

    I thought the Blomkvist-Salander relationship was believable too. I don’t know that much about Asperger’s but I agree we are intended to feel that Blomkvist’s supposition is correct.

    It was a compulsively readable and greatly entertaining book.

  7. Julie James
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 16:42:45

    I swung back and forth with this book. The first 100 pages–the financial stuff– didn’t do much for me. Then Lisbeth came into the picture, and the mystery kicked in–the containment aspects of which I loved. (It had to be someone on the island!!) But then the revelation of the villain felt very over-the-top. I haven’t yet felt compelled to pick up the second book, which says something. But despite my complaints, I did like the book and have recommended it to others–which also says something.

  8. Julie James
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 16:54:28

    Re: the violence: I don’t feel that the book glorifies violence against women, but at first I wasn’t sure whether the psycho-sexual elements of the mystery worked with the tone of the rest of the story. As in, the book suddenly became “Silence of the Lambs”-ish, when, until that point, it had been more of a straight-forward who-done-it mystery. But then I thought about the statistics on violence against women that the author presented as chapter (section?) lead-ins, and decided that those had provided enough foreshadowing about the type of violence that would follow.

  9. Julie L
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 16:58:56

    I listened to all three on audio (Simon Vance did a great job narrating) and I was really swept up in them all, but the first was my favorite of the trilogy. I agree Blomqvist was a Marty Stu – all these women throwing themselves at him! My DH read the books too and he’s not much of a reader (until lately) and couldn’t help noticing how much they all drank coffee and how Blomqvist seemed to be this middle aged, paunchy, babe magnet! LOL! The movie is great and IMHO faithful to the story too.

  10. Cathy in AK
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 17:10:32

    The slower beginning and the financial stuff wasn’t too bad. It was the last part, after the big mystery was solved and Blomkvist was going after the other guy, that got to me. I was glad to see Blomkvist get that resolved, but it took waaaaaay too long to tell.

    As for the violence against women, I agree it wasn’t glorified here. Larsson certainly didn’t hold back in terms of graphic detail, but it fit with the grittiness of the story lines. The statistics did a nice job setting up both tone and expectations of the chapters, sad and horrid as they were.

  11. Sarai
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 17:13:19

    I don’t know if I can read this book.I made the mistake of watching the movie and the rape scene in the movie was enough to have me sending it back without ever finishing it. I couldn’t believe they filmed that let alone had such a huge chunk of it in the movie. If the book leaves it out I will maybe consider picking it up. If not I’m passing. Rapes are a no go for me in books or movies.

  12. Kirsten
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 18:30:15

    I liked the financial stuff at the beginning and for all those romances with alpha men working as “bodyguards” Larsson provided the best description of the fullness of those enterprises in the 21st century that I have ever heard (I listened to the audio book too).

  13. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 18:59:14

    @Julie James: Yes, there were definitely over the top aspects to this book and the revelation of the villain was one of them.

    Those violence statistics were chilling. The morphing of the book from mystery to thriller somehow did not surprise me, although I liked the mystery section better. I think Larsson also laid some foreshadowing with the stuff with Lisbeth and her legal guardian early on. I was not expecting it to stay a quiet, thoughtful kind of book the whole way through after that.

    I think the way Larsson switches from financial intrigue to psychological relationship story, to thoughtful mystery, to OTT thriller and finally at the end throws in a bit of political journalism and heist caper fantasies was a big part of what made the book so entertaining, even though the transitions from one type of story to another weren’t always smooth. It was a long book, but whenever it was in danger of getting monotonous he would change things up.

  14. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:02:38

    @Julie L: I haven’t seen the movie but thanks for the recommendation. Yes, there was definitely a fantasy aspect to Blomkvist getting all these women. There were also other Marty Stu aspects, esp.

    SPOILER
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    The way his journalistic scoop becomes the news story of the century in Sweden and even brings about the collapse of the country’s economy. Definitely a journalist’s wish fulfillment fantasy if I’ve ever read one.

  15. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:07:34

    @Cathy in AK: I agree that the resolution of the story felt a bit long. And for me, maybe even tacked on. That, on top of the babe magnet stuff, was what put Blomkvist in the Marty Stu category in my mind. It held my interest though.

  16. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:10:28

    @Sarai: I respect your feelings about that. That scene was the most difficult for me to read although Larsson doesn’t dwell on the details — he just shows the lead up to it and the aftermath, and skips over the middle.

    SPOILER
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    Lisbeth’s revenge on her rapist, though, is very powerful.

  17. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:12:11

    @Kirsten: I’m glad I’m not the only one who liked the financial stuff! I didn’t mind it at all.

    Re. Alpha male bodyguards, are you referring to Armansky’s company where Lisbeth worked?

  18. Brian
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:12:58

    @Julie L: In 2008 Sweden was ranked number 6 in the world for coffee consumption.

    There are 126 references to coffee in this book. :)

    @Sarai: It’s definitely in there.

  19. Jo
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:21:39

    Adored this book and the others that followed. I listened to them, and while I normally am pretty good at turning off the iPod when I’m done riding my bike, as I got toward the end of all three, I broke my rule and had to listen at other times. That’s the audio equivalent of I-couldn’t-put-it-down. Made a point to see the first two movies and thought the screenplay did a remarkable job of paring the story and yet leaving all the essentials. It’s hard for me to imagine that another actress can occupy the Lisbeth role the way Noomi Rapage (sp?) did. She was amazing. I hope the Hollywood version doesn’t cut out the difficult-to-watch scenes – the rape, for instance. Those scenes were a lot harder to listen to than watch, and I couldn’t exactly fast forward. In the dark of the movie theatre, though, I could squint.

  20. Tiffany Clare
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:22:13

    Brian, tell me you didn’t count the coffee! Lisbeth does drink a lot of it, so does Blomkvist.

    @Sarai It’s much more grusome in the book. I watched the movie the day after I read the book (I NEEDED to see it, to see what they’d done with the story).

    @Julie James: I don’t think violence against women was glorified either. I think if you read his bio, he was not only against racism and nazism (is that even a word) but violence against women. I think he was pointing out some harsh realities. And not holding any punches to save his readers from cringing.

    @Janine There is nothing BETTER than Lisbeth’s revenge. I cheered her through the whole thing. As for her background. I think I’ve got it figured out. Think Harriett. And I love how Lisbeth takes revenge in her very unemo (aspergers) way. It just is for her.

  21. Cathy in AK
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:24:01

    Sarai, the rape scene in the book was brutal, so you may want to skip that part if you ever read “Dragon Tattoo.” It was difficult to read, and I don’t know if I’d be able to watch that part of the movie, but it is an important aspect of Lisbeth’s overall story line. FYI, “Fire” is pretty violent, but not in that way.

    Janine, I also didn’t get Blomkvist’s babe magnetism. More fantasy on the author’s part, me thinks : )

  22. Cathy in AK
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:27:53

    And yeah, LOVED Lisbeth’s revenge : )

  23. Tae
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:31:14

    I have not read this yet, but my hubby just ordered it since we needed to spend about $8 more in order to get free shipping. I’m not sure if this is my type of book, but now I’m intrigued. And I was just in Sweden this summer, so it might help me visualize as I’m reading.

  24. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:41:00

    @Brian: What Tiffany Clare said!

    @Jo: Good to hear that about the movie. I haven’t seen it but to me the actress doesn’t look like Lisbeth visually — I pictured Lisbeth as having a more fragile appearance (one that belied her strength).

    @Tiffany Clare:

    SPOILER
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    Lisbeth’s revenge was cathartic, esp. after reading about the rape. I suspect you’re right about Lisbeth’s background.

  25. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:43:16

    @Cathy in AK: Interesting that to many the rape is worse in the book. I haven’t seen the movie, but I expected to feel opposite. I usually find violence and rape esp. even harder to watch than to read about, despite the fact that books usually hit me harder than movies.

  26. Janine
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 19:45:07

    @Tae: I hope you enjoy the book! I thought I was the last one to read it, LOL. I’m certain it will bring back memories of Sweden.

    ETA: Please do feel welcome to come back and add your thoughts after you’ve read it.

  27. Kirsten
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 20:47:21

    @Janine: Yes, Armansky’s company.

  28. whey
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 00:34:41

    So strange to read a review of this book right now, as I actually just first heard about this book maybe 10 hours ago in reference to the whole Wikileaks/Assange brouhaha, and similarities to this book.

  29. Elizabeth
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 00:39:49

    I hope you have started reading the second one in the trilogy. Personally I liked the second book the most in the Trilogy.

    Lisbeth Salander gets a more definite characterisation in the second book and it is also more fast paced.

  30. Rosario
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 01:34:48

    For me the rape was definitely worse in the book than in the film. I had to force myself to keep reading, whereas I was fine in the film. Actually, on the whole, I liked the film better, and that’s probably the first time that’s ever happened.

    My main problems with the book were the pacing (which was way off, IMO: things took ages to get started and then to be wrapped up) and the male wish-fulfilment aspects of Blomqvist’s sex life.

    Both of these were “fixed” in the film – better pacing and not so much booooring financial crap (and I’m an economist, I normally have a high tolerance for financial crap!) and Blomqvist wasn’t “this middle aged, paunchy, babe magnet”, as someone put it earlier in this thread. His relationship with Berger (which, I agree, didn’t completely ring true in the book) is glossed over, and I thought the tone of his sexual relationship with Lisbeth changed slightly. It felt more like Blomqvist was falling for her, whereas in the book it felt like “just sex” to me.

  31. Janine
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 02:16:10

    @whey: I’m not familiar with the Wikileaks/Assange brouhaha, is that a new controversy?

    @Elizabeth: I haven’t started the second book yet, but there’s a good chance I’ll get to it eventually. I’ve hard a lot of good things about it.

    @Rosario: Interesting comparison of the book and movie. I’m curious if you read the book first or saw the movie first. I find I am more likely to prefer the one I came across first to the other, although there are exceptions to that.

    Re. Blomkvist and Lisbeth’s relationship in the book. I felt that he genuinely cared about her, and wasn’t just in it for the sex, even though he didn’t fall in love with her. Actually that was something I found interesting about Blomkvist — he seemed to genuinely like and care about each of the women he slept with, though he wasn’t monogamous with any of them.

  32. Rosario
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 03:55:57

    @Janine: I read the book first, a few weeks before I saw the film.

  33. Tiffany Clare
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 03:59:58

    @Janine: You should try the movie. Noomi makes a perfect Salander. She is a tiny little thing.@Rosario: I definitely liked the book better. They had to change too many things to fit the story in 2 1/2 hours of film. Some things were skipped and I wish they weren’t. Some things outright changed. But, the movie was still really good. Also, liked the actor that played Blomkvist. I wouldn’t say paunchy at all, he exercises in the book regularly. Actually found the guy in the movie kinda good looking. He ‘grew’ on me quite nicely. :)

  34. Nat
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 06:36:58

    @ Tiffany Clare And to say that Daniel Craig will play Blomkvist in the US version! If the Swedish actor was easy on the eyes, Craig will be huge distraction! :)

    The rape scene in the book (and in the movie), is hard to watch or read. In any language or medium, some things just punch you in the gut. But I think you (not you Tiffany, the general “you” :) have to stick with it. It’s important to Lisbeth’s character development. Plus, when Revenge comes aknocking, you will *want* to have suffered with her so you can rub your hands at what you know is coming.

  35. Artemis
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 07:32:01

    Ahem…
    Haven’t read any of them. At the moment, I don’t have any interest to.

  36. Christine M.
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 07:46:28

    The third film was released on DVD last week here so I really have to start reading the books soon or else I’ll pick up the films and watch them all in one go. And then reading the books won’t be half as fun.

  37. Maura
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 09:24:13

    I fear I’m in a small minority- I didn’t care for this book at all, and I didn’t come away from it wanting to know more about Salander. My main problems were along the lines of some mentioned above- the pacing, the resolution of the mystery, some awkward translation, and above all Blomqvist the author’s wish-fulfillment avatar.

  38. Heather
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 10:24:08

    @Maura:

    No, you’re not alone. I didn’t dislike the book but I didn’t love it for reasons pretty similar to yours. I couldn’t help feeling that the book needed more/stronger editing to tighten it up. I know the author turned in all 3 and then died and it made me wonder if they left it as is in his memory.

    I heard an interview with the publisher on NPR. She said Larson wanted to write about Pippi Longstocking all grwon up, so I was intrigued by the book.

    My mom sent me all three. I’ve read the first two and will likely read the third to see how it’s all tied up, but I’m very glad I didn’t pay any money for the books.

  39. Cathy in AK
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 10:54:59

    @ Heather: Pippi Longstocking all grown up??? What version of the books was HE reading as a kid?

    @ Nat: RE: the rape scene and revenge–Agreed. It was a horrendous act that was repaid in kind, and I was oh so glad to read THAT bit.

    I agree that they weren’t the best written books I’ve ever read, but Salander’s character grabbed me by the throat. But that’s me : )

  40. Janine
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 14:05:51

    @Tiffany Clare: Probably I will try the film at some point.

    @Nat: That’s a good point about the rape scenes (there were actually two — one in the guardian’s office and one in his house).

    @Christine M.: That was one of my motivations for reading the book, too.

    @Maura: I can see why this book wouldn’t work for everybody. It’s definitely not perfect. And while many love it, I’m sure there are some who bought it to see what the appeal was and then found it wasn’t for them. It’s certainly happened to me with some huge bestsellers (The Bridges of Madison County, for example).

    @Heather: I’m wondering if it will all be tied up in book three. Since the author died before he could finish the series (he planned for ten books), it may not be.

    @Cathy in AK: I can sort of see the Pippi Longstocking comparison. If memory serves, Pippi didn’t care what anyone thought and never backed down from a fight.

    I liked Salander a lot, but she grabbed me less than some. I think that was because I had heard so much about her before I read the book, and therefore my expectations for her character were sky high.

  41. Heather
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 14:32:00

    @Cathy in AK:

    Here’s the NPR interview with the publisher: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127402867

    From the story:
    “According to Gedin, Larsson’s idea for Salander actually began with children’s book character Pippi Longstocking and what she would be like when she grew up. “She sort of makes up her own rules and is quite a loner,” Gedin says. “[Larsson] said from the beginning that he had created a girl who was some kind of an oddball that we haven’t seen in stories like this before -’ and he was quite right.”

    @Janine: 10 books?! I couldn’t make it through 10 of these. Three will likely do me in.

  42. Brussel Sprout
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 14:51:02

    I read book 1 and found it pretty meh. Thought Blomkvist was a complete Marty Sue, that Lisbeth Salander was a sort of Buffybot – there is the way she thinks about computers in a very geek fashion, her desire to avoid/evade all real interaction and her unsentimental attitude to sex, none of which rang true, all of which were features that seemed to me only men would really prize. I found her pretty implausible as a character. I found both financial and sexual/serial killing plots hackneyed and featuring non sequiturs and I thought the translation was clunky. I was sufficiently put off that I haven’t read and don’t plan to read the rest of the trilogy.

  43. Maura
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 15:40:07

    Brussel Sprout: Yes, I think that’s part of what put me off. I was always very conscious of reading what struck me as a very male voice, and I wondered if the only way he could see himself writing Lisbeth was to give her a lot of stereotypically masculine thought patterns. A lot of the time, she felt more to me like a male character with some lady bits stuck on than anything else, and while that itself could have made for a compelling character if it had been explored, I always ended up feeling like Larsson just didn’t want to truly go there, and as a result she felt incompletely realized to me. Maybe I was just expecting more because of all the hype, but I found myself insufficiently grabbed by the story or the characters.

    I haven’t read the sequels and probably won’t, so I don’t know if the problems I had with the first book are addressed further down the line, or how much a normal editor-writer dynamic might have shaped things had the author sought publication during his life.

  44. Janine
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 16:47:45

    @Brussel Sprout & @Maura:

    I actually liked that Larsson gave Lisbeth some characteristics that might be viewed as traditionally “masculine.” Especially since he also gave Blomkvist some characteristics that might be read as more “feminine,” and since it was Lisbeth who charged to Blomkvist’s rescue rather than the other way around. I found that whole dynamic really interesting.

  45. Cathy in AK
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 17:23:37

    Janine, I’m with you on the male-female characteristics thing. I think it’s Salander’s atypical female characteristics–moreso than Blomkvist’s more feminine ones–that compelled me to read the second book and will get me to read the third. If a male character behaved the same way I doubt it would have raised much question. Though now I can see where Larsson got the Pippi Longstocking idea. Still, going from a girl doing her own thing and not backing down from a fight to a semi-sociopath is quite a leap : )

    Heather: thanks for the link.

    Maura, you definitely find out more about her history in “Fire.” It explains a lot. The book(s) won’t work for everyone, of course, but what fun to discuss the whys and wherefores : )

    Thanks for starting such a fun exchange, Janine.

  46. Janine
    Aug 26, 2010 @ 19:14:46

    @Cathy in AK: You’re welcome, Cathy!

  47. Damaged Survivors: Thoughts on Two Memorable Heroines | Dear Author
    Sep 08, 2010 @ 04:02:54

    [...] The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is such a bestseller that it needs no introduction, but my review, which includes a description of Lisbeth, can be found here. [...]

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