About Me

My photo
Surrey, United Kingdom

Sunday, 21 February 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

There has been a great deal of hype around Larsson's Millenium trilogy of novels, the first of which is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. This is, I'm sure, in part to the sad death of the author before any of the books were published. As always when a book has been lauded as 'the next big thing' I felt rather reluctant to read it. I was sure that it would not live up to the hype and would actually be quite average; if it hadn't been chosen for my book club I am not sure I would ever have considered reading it. So, I started from quite a negative frame of mind. As it turned out, I really enjoyed the book - to a certain extent. The plot is wonderful and the denouement was surprising, but not completely unexpected (which I like - if it's totally out of the blue I always feel that the author has been dishonest in telling the story; you should have enough material to feel suspicious of the perpetrator without necessarily considering them as a serious contender). I also thought that the descriptions were vivid and Larsson really creates a believable image of a small Swedish community. So that's the good stuff. There were, however, a few things about the novel that I wasn't so keen on. I haven't read many books in translation, so don't really know if this is a common problem, but there were several occasions when I found the prose rather 'clunky'; it didn't have quite the right ring about it. While I don't think this detracted from the story-telling, I did find it distracting, like finding cornflake in a bowl of coco pops ;) There were also times when it almost felt like an exercise in product placement. During the discussion with the other members of my book club we talked about how the emphasis on the specifications of the computer equipment that Lisbeth used was part of creating and explaining her character. Whilst I agree with and understand that, it was just another thing that broke the rhythm of the prose for me. Finally, I struggled to find any character that I really liked and I actually found some of them quite objectionable. They were all fascinating and well drawn, but there just wasn't any character that I connected with.
In conclusion, I did enjoy this book and while I might not be rushing out to read the next two in the series, I'm interested to know how the characters develop and will certainly get around to reading them at some point. I'm prepared to forgive quite a bit in this novel, given the circumstances of its publication; with some editing and revision and read in the original Swedish I think this could be an excellent book.

Currently reading:
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - I've read and loved all of Sarah Waters work so far, so have high hopes for this novel which made the Booker short list.
The Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray - Great book so far; atmospheric, sinister, but not taking itself too seriously.

Next Book Club choice:

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson

While waiting for my next book club book to arrive, I decided to grab the next novel in the Inspector Banks series - Wednesday's Child by Peter Robinson I have reviewed Peter Robinson's Inspector Banks stories before, and I'm not sure there's much more to be said about them. They are reliably enjoyable - intriguing plots and strong believable characters. There's humour, pathos, mystery and enough over-arching storyline to make Inspector Banks a familiar and welcome returning character (along with his police cronies). My only real criticism is that it is high time someone picked this up as a new TV series.
Currently Reading:
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - the next book club book. I've heard great things about this and while only 50 pages in I am already eager to read more and pretty convinced I will need to complete the trilogy...
The Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan Gray - I read White Stone Day by this author last year and thought it was wonderful. Atmospheric and grimy, but with a sense of humour. Goodness knows why this author is not more widely known, nor why I stuggled for so long to get my hands on a copy of The Fiend in Human.

Becoming Queen by Kate Williams

My first non-fiction read of 2010 is one I have had on the shelf for a while: Becoming Queen by Kate Williams Of course, being an avid fan of all things Victorian, I had seen the film Young Victoria, which used this book as a basis for it's depiction of the early years of Queen Victoria. Having not researched the book anymore than hearing its name in connection to the film, my first reaction on reading it was surprise. There is much more to this work than the early years of Victoria. One thing I love about reading is those times when a whole new area of interest is opened up for you. Strangely I have never been a huge fan of the Regency or Georgian period, much prefering the Victorian and Edwardian era. This book however really piqued my interest. The Prince Regent and his many brothers and sisters are all given distinct personalities and really brought to life. The story focuses on Princess Charlotte, daughter of the Prince Regent (William IV) and Caroline of Brunswick who was heir to the throne and adored by the British public. Kate Williams suggests that it is partly because of Charlotte's tragic death in childbirth that the British public was so ready and willing to take Victoria to it's heart.
I really enjoyed this book and the easy, familiar style in which it was written. I love a book with a family tree and it is well illustrated with some striking portraits and, my favourite, a photo of Princess Charlotte's memorial in St George's Chapel, Windsor. I was also interested to read that Princess Charlotte had lived at Claremont, near Esher. My husband and I visited their only recently for a cobweb-blasting walk just after Christmas and I can completely see why the young princess (and Victoria after her) fell in love with the beautiful countryside and landscape garden.
So, a great read with a captivating story. My only question is what to read next? Is there a good biography of Princess Charlotte and/or Caroline of Brunswick? Can you recommend any non-fiction books for a new-comer to Regency history? Are there any good historical fictions of the era? I'd love to hear what books about/set in this period you have read and enjoyed.