The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Abandoned: Page 183
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues.
Quite frankly, I hated this book. It’s highly praised and rated, but it wasn’t for me. I was drawn in by the adventure-hinting title and the promise of a kickass girl fighting crime. At the point where I gave up on the book, neither had been delivered. Eventually, I got too frustrated with it to continue.
The first several chapters were laden with technical details about business, finance, and corporate sabotage that were hard to follow (they referenced a lot of famous Swedes, who I did not know of) and not wholly necessary. The chapters could have been summed up in a few pages or less. I kept reading only because I hoped that the book would pick up.
It didn’t. The theme of dense, dry, and boring writing continued throughout the novel. Some of the issues I had with the writing may have been caused by the book being translated from Swedish, which it was written in. But that doesn’t account for the numerous bad transitions from Mikael’s point of view to Lisbeth’s, or for the fact that it read like a textbook. Although if you’re interested in bizarre Swedish families or corporate sabotage, you might find it interesting. Besides the unnecessary amount of details, the novel also had a lot of “product-placement.” Every time a character went shopping, the brand of practically everything was given, and when Lisbeth wanted to buy a new computer, Larsson turned into an Apple spokesperson for half a page.
The title of the book led me to believe that Lisbeth Salander was the main character, when in fact she was barely a side character and hadn’t even been connected with Blomkvist or into the main story by the time I abandoned the book. When she did appear, she was practically lifeless and had pretty much no personality. She was sold as anti-social and ruthless, but she came off as a coma patient whose body hadn’t caught up with her brain.
Out of all my problems with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, its offensiveness was probably one of the biggest. A lot of the female characters are depicted negatively, especially Lisbeth, who despite being healthy if not robust in the mental health department, was referred to quite often as “retarded.” She was also described as “anorexic” in one paragraph, but the next explained that she didn’t have an eating disorder and ate like a horse, just weighed 90 pounds anyway. The worst offense against Lisbeth was her rape, which Larsson handled awfully. Lisbeth doesn’t even react. If you’re going to write about rape, at least show how traumatizing and awful it is, don’t imply that it’s “the norm”!
If that weren’t bad enough, the original title of the book was Men Who Hate Women, which, I think, is a much more accurate description of the novel.
Once Upon a Time...
As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.