Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Book Review: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor)

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Män som hatar kvinnor) by Stieg Larsson

Category: Crime fiction

Synopsis: Mikael Blomkvist is a financial reporter who has been sentenced to prison for slander. He decides to take some time off from his job as editor of the magazine Millennium. He is offered a job by the wealthy industrialist Henrik Vanger who wants him to write the history of the Vanger family. This however turns out to simply be a cover story for the real digging Vagner wants him to do. Vagner wants him to find out what happened to his niece Harriet, who disappeared any years previously. Blomkvist is later joined by Lisbeth Salander, a young girl with problems, but a knack for finding out information.

My Thoughts: I read this book quite quickly. It was okay. I didn’t like the view of Sweden it presented. No single character acted in a way in which I thought was moral. I am so sick and tired of Sweden being portrayed as a country where pretty much everyone has loose sexual morals (I believe that what goes on between two consenting adults is their business but all this sleeping around that goes on is such a sterotype and it drives me insane). In addition, although I am well aware of the abuses that happen in society I found the portrayals in this book to be deeply deeply disturbing and somewhat unnecessary.

That aside, my actual objection to this book is the fact that to me there was nothing new. I won’t portray myself as an expert on Swedish Crime fiction but there was nothing new here. Several other Swedish authors use the format of plucky newspaper reporter uncovers horrible corruption in the financial world. Throw in some corrupt government officials (or officials in general) and you have a fairly standard Swedish Crime novel. There was nothing really new in this book. I fail to see why this has become the international best seller.
I do wonder about the translation, Kalle Blomkvist is a literary figure most Swedes would know and know the symbolism that he carries. To those who have read translated versions, does the translation explain this cultural reference? To me, and to most Swede's Kalle Blomkvist conjures up certain images, images that I think contribute to my feeling of this not being anything new. I wonder if others get the same feeling?
The reason I ended up being up late finishing this book was because I wanted to finish the book so that I could get on with purging some rather disturbing scenes from my mind.

Apparently I am not the only one who is confused as to why this book is so great. Jackie from Farm Lane Books posted her thoughts as well while I was reading it.

I have yet to decide if I will read the other two books in the series. Since I can get them from the library I just might. I don't mean to sound all negative, I did finish the book after all but it just did not leave me wanting to re-read it.

One positive note was the characterisation of Lisbeth. I did find her to be a character I wanted to know more about, which is why I am considering reading the other books in the series.



Aarti said...

I haven't read this one, but it DOES get a lot of attention, doesn't it? I don't think I'm likely to pick it up.

kaye said...

just stopping by to wish you a Merry Christmas!

Kristen M. said...

This is one that I've actually been avoiding for fear of the exact thing you brought up -- that there are no "good" characters in it. A book that holds only darkness is not my cup of tea.

Care said...

I don't read many crime thrillers so I don't know if I can speak to its being average or better. But I will say that I don't think I have any general stereotypes of Swedish people based on the characters of this book - I assume people the world over who are characters in books like this are usually written to to be more "exciting" than the average person. And the translation I read had a short explanation of Kalle Blomquist that was quite sufficient. I wouldn't mind a suggestion of a 'great' Swedish crime thriller if you want to challenge me. :)

Zee said...

I think the sterotype I have the problem with is the bed jumping that seems to be going on. I am tired of Swedes being portrayed as being somewhat sex mad. Not saying that sex is bad :) just tired of that being the first thing (after the hurdy gurdy comment) that people say about Swedes. Does that make sense?

I don't actually read that much Swedish crime fiction but the "plucky reporter" irritation comes from the fact that almost the same concept is present in Liza Marklunds books (not sure they are translated). I've never read but have enjoyed the movies from the books by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. They were written some time ago but they are incredibly popular.

Jackie (Farm Lane Books) said...

I wouldn't worry about the way this book portrays the Swedish people. I think all crime thrillers treat the population in the same way, no matter where in the world they live.

I was interested in your comment on Kalle Blomkvist. I haven't heard of him before and know nothing about what his name implies. Could you enlighten us a bit?

It is good to know that I'm not alone in thinking this was just an average book. I can't decide whether or not to read the sequels either. I'll have to see if they ever grab my attention!

Zee said...

Kalle Blomkvist is the main and title character in three children's books by Astrid Lindgren. They tell the story of two groups of friends (three in each group) who spend their summers playing a version of hide and seek. They call themselves the Red and White Roses and they take turns hiding a stone called Stormumriken. I can't actually remember the exact rules of the game, just the version we played growing up :). Anyway, while the kids are playing this game crimes are committed in the small Swedish town where they live and the kids get involved in various ways (mainly witnessing things they shouldn't have). Kalle Blomkvist likes solving mysteries and he ends up, by being a nosy kid :), solving the crimes. They are set in the 1940s and are present a, to my mind, lovely view of childhood.

The image the name Kalle Blomkvist conjures up a version of a simpler time, kind of a black and white movie where things are, well black and white. A sort of Leave it to Beaver feeling I think. It also gives me an image where the police is slightly bumbling (not in a bad way) and the kids are the smart ones, a bit like the Scooby gang.

I feel like I am rambling a bit here. Does this all make sense?

I am actually planning a bit of an author portrait of Astrid Lindgren in January. She is one of my all time favourite children's authors.