#45 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

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Kim and Todd here for a joint review of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo!  After hearing a lot of buzz about the novel, we decided to give it a try.  Seemingly everywhere we went, on a train, plane, or any form of public transportation, someone was reading this book.  Of course, after we started listening/reading it we couldn’t put it down either.  Yup, you read that right – listening and reading.  We were taking a road trip one day and, wanting to try something new, picked up the audio version of the novel.  We both got hooked and couldn’t wait for the other to be in the car to continue along with the story.  With that being said we both began swapping CD’s and the book back and forth to continue the story as fast as possible.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo begins with a lawsuit, specifically a libel suit against Mikael Blomkvist, writer and member of the board of directors of Milennium Magazine.  The magazine specializes in writing exposés of famous individuals, bringing their misdeeds to public attention.  Blomkvist loses the suit, which was brought on by an article he wrote alleging billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström of corruption and money laundering.  He is sentenced to a serve time in a minimum security facility for several months.  Before his scheduled jail time, he is contacted by a man named Henrik Vanger, who offers him a freelance assignment with the promise of a more than generous salary and information that he can use to build a stronger case against Wennerström.  Blomkvist accepts and moves to a small island where most of the Vanger family lives, working under the cover of writing the Vanger family history, but in reality is trying to solve the disappearance of Vanger’s niece Harriet roughly 40 years earlier.  Little does he know, Vanger already throughly inspected his background and personal life using the services of Lisbeth Salander, a computer and investigative expert.  Blomkvist eventually catches Salander hacking into his personal computer and decides to ask her to help him with his investigation.  Meanwhile, Salander’s difficult past is explained, culminating in a brutal scene of sexual assault against her by her legal guardian.  Will Lisbeth be able to overcome the horrors of her personal life so that she can help Blomkvist?  Will they be able to solve the kidnapping that happened almost half a century ago?  Will Blomkvist be able to escape the odd sense that Vanger is not all that he seems?

Kim: The first thing I have to say about this novel is that the writing and language used is just exquisite.  The fluidity of the prose is just perfection, which is surprising, considering that the book was translated from Swedish.  Honestly the only way I can describe the writing is like melted butter on hot lobster. (HAHA – for you lobster lovers out there, my metaphor makes perfect sense)  The imagery conveyed with this prose is at times very helpful in learing what the characters looked like and acted like, but at other times it was too graphic and disturbing.  The subject matter at times got very rough, and I must forewarn readers about a difficult rape scene to get through.  I find myself able to read/watch most anything, I’ve just become desensitized to things over the years, but this proved rough for even me.

 Todd: I think that Larsson crafted an amazing story, and it was so complex that it seemed at times that he had tons of information to get out in a short amount of time.  I think that the writing was on the shorter side sentence-wise, which makes sense due to the translation.  However, this didn’t detract from the overall feel at all.  I think if anything it helped during the scenes of intense action and mystery.  Larsson is great at building suspense, and made me nervous that something big was about to happen throughout the novel.  The addition of Salander is a great plot point in the book, as she adds a sense of vigilante-ism that is missing in Blomkvist.  She takes matters into her own hands, and extracts a certain vengeance that makes her character all the more badass.

Kim: Another point about this book that I really liked, was that it was an intelligent mystery.  It really required you to pay attention to what you were reading to pick up on the subtleties of the clues.  Blomkvist is definitely one of my favorite protagonist having read this now.  The way he goes about trying to solve this 40+ year mystery is astounding.  I wish my brain functioned like his does!

Todd: I definitely agree with Kim’s point about this being an intelligent mystery.  Not only do you get sporadic clues and delve deeper into the circumstances surrounding Harriet’s disappearance, but you also have to deal with increasing attacks on Blomkvist and Salander’s own well-being.  Someone very badly wants to keep Harriet’s disappearance a mystery, and when that plot point is finally revealed I almost fell out of my chair.  Larsson takes the typical mystery/suspense setup and really turns it on its head.  It is an amazing and complex read.

Kim: I felt smarter after reading it!  The weaving of Salander and Blomkvist’s stories together into one meshes really well. I do also have to say that Todd and I watched the Swedish version of the film and I’d highly recommend that also.  The film sticks close to the book, dropping some of the subplot out for time purposes, but the main bulk of the plot is intact.  I can’t recommend this book enough for those of you wanting to push your brain to a new limit.  Larsson’s writing will have you without a doubt transcending to a new literary level.

Kim: 5 out of 5 Stars

Todd: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is my fourteenth completed review for the Page to Screen Challenge
This is my sixth completed review for the Chunkster Challenge
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (2009)
Paperback 672 pages
ISBN:  9780307473479

6 thoughts on “#45 The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

  1. Can I just say the two of you reading and reviewing together is adorable, first off? 🙂

    I read the whole trilogy and saw the movies last year; they’re among my absolute favorites now. Lisbeth and Mikael are just such memorable characters–they’ve become perhaps my favorite team in literature. The wordiness is, of course, a fight to get through; as much as I love the novels, I can’t deny that Larsson gets dense.

    I do agree about the content, though. The rape scene was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to read and led to the most visceral reaction I’ve ever had to a book. I was hyperventilating and nearly crying; it was awful. The film adaptations (which I absolutely love; Rapace and Nyqvist did so well) did the right thing in not sparing the violence. I have to admit that I’m worried about the American versions. So many of the promotional materials have Rooney Mara half-naked, and that’s not the message Larsson was trying to send at all.

    I hope you like the next two books as well–the story becomes more about Lisbeth’s past and it’s really fascinating, at least to me! These books are near and dear to me by now; they really made me think.

    • Trai I have the same reservations about the American films! The violence is a huge part of why Lisbeth is the way she is. European films seem to be more open and less restricted in what they’re willing to show. We as a nation are much more conservative with how far we’ll take things. I’m worried they’re “sexing” it up too much.

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  3. Pingback: Life and 100 Films – Charlie’s Film Review of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo « Reflections of a Book Addict

  4. Pingback: Todd’s Review of The Psychology of the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Edited by Robin Rosenberg, Ph.D. and Shannon O’Neill « Reflections of a Book Addict

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