Review on: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I have never done a book review before, and I don’t think I ever even planned to review any of the books I’ve read. I was happy just talking about them and recommending them to colleagues and friends. But when I stumbled upon this book, the feminist in me stood up and decided she wanted to speak up. But before anything else, I’ll be following the normal book review format 😛

Forty years ago, Harriet Vanger disappeared from a family gathering on the island owned and inhabited by the powerful Vanger clan. Her body was never found, yet her beloved uncle is convinced it was murder and that the killer is a member of his own tightly knit but dysfunctional family. He employs disgraced financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and the tattooed and troubled but resourceful computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) to investigate. When the pair link Harriet’s disappearance to a number of grotesque murders from almost forty years ago, they begin to unravel a dark and appalling family history. But the Vanger’s are a secretive clan, and Blomkvist and Salander are about to find out just how far they are prepared to go to protect themselves.

In every review I’ve read, people have written about the horrible treatment of women in Sweden. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo not only implied the violence, it was described full-on, backed up with statistics. The first part of this book dealt mostly with back stories and histories, almost to the point that it seemed like the author was beating around the bush. I didn’t and still don’t know the importance of the first 200 pages, which held, as I mentioned, detials on the Wennerstrom (Mikael’s enemy) company, the background of the Vanger family, and of course the background of both main characters, Mikael Bloomkvist and Lisbeth Salander (squeal!). I remember there was a particular part in the book that I summarized to Jonar after I read it. I was frustrated that it had been written in so many words and could have been squeezed into 2 paragraphs (this way we can kill less trees ^^).

In the middle of this book you will find a very unpleasant surprise: a series of carefully detailed abuses, which might not be as graphic as other books, but detailed enough to allow you to imagine how these women were all executed. Although I absolutely can not live without the Crime Channel and the Biography Channel (we have Destiny Cable, just in case you’re wondering), and I have watched shows on crime, abuse and even, cannibalism, I can not, however; keep myself from feeling absolutely sick and weak after I learned about the fate of these characters.

I’m not a hardcore feminist. I have never joined activist groups and I have not been active in foundations against abuse. I have once in my life designed graphics for a video on OFW’s for a former employer, which would make any person feel better,knowing that she was been part of something that will increase awareness. I may not have done a lot of research on feminism, women’s rights or even abuse in general, but I know that no woman or man should go through the abuse that was written in this book:

Part 1 : Eighteen percent of the women in Sweden have at one time been threatened by a man.

Part 2: Forty-six percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to violence by a man.

Part 3: Thirteen percent of the women in Sweden have been subjected to aggravated sexual assault
outside of a sexual relationship.

Part 4: Ninety-two percent of women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not
reported the most recent violent incident to the police.

I’ve heard rumors from friends and colleagues that Stieg Larsson must have hated women so much that he wrote such a novel, but on the contrary, Salander was so strong and kick-ass for a character created by a man who supposedly hated women. In fact, he grew up around violence, hiding from extremists, had a grandfather that was imprisoned because if his anti-Nazi opinions, and was a strong advocate for democracy and freedom of speech. Unfortunately, before he finished the Millennium series, he passed away due to a heart-attack in 2004. There goes another great writer.

The outcast, Lisbeth Salander, is strange and confusing at first, covered with odd habits, a filthy apartment, and a somewhat gothic fashion sense. It’s typical for people to think she’s trouble, but she’s a hacker extraordinaire who is all about finding the truth for the right reasons. All her life she was judged by her appearance and there were only a few who saw her talents and trusted her. One of those people was Mikael Blomkvist who is a bit predictable. I figured he’d give in to the search for Harriet at some point or another, although I loved the way he was able to bring out evidence that were not even considered during the investigation forty years ago.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo always kept me guessing; there were so many ways the plot could turn and still come out as good as it did. Although the ending was a bit anti-climactic, probably because the leftover issues they dealt with on the first 200 pages, that sprang up and had to be addressed. This book is, as everyone says it is, horrific, sexy, and sensitive, as complex as the twists and the problem of violence, a significant number of Sweden’s women face.

If you handle violence pretty well, enjoy mysteries, are attracted to strong characters and don’t mind riding a rollercoaster of emotion I recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This book isn’t for the faint-hearted.

My rating?

Honestly I don’t know how to rate books really, but in respect to all book bloggers I will adapt one of the systems I have been introduced to by Grace/Kai:

★★★★☆ : AWESOMENESS! – This book rocks! Getting through the first 200 pages was worth it.