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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:


  1. I've read the first two and I agree with you...I do want to see how it all ends but I'm not rushing to read the third. I've had it on my To be read pile for about a month but still haven't picked it up. Too many other books look more interesting!

  2. My thoughts exactly...and I'm always a bit reluctant to read contemporary novels when there are so many unread Victorian/Edwardian books around!

  3. Noir is indeed an acquired taste. Stieg Larsson's work is often thick and flat, but I can appreciate his thoroughness and his attention to detail. To me, the series really kicked off in the second book, which is more focused around Lisbeth Salander.

    She's protagonist of a rare quality and Larsson made her unique, what 99% of the writers can't do. There's no one like Lisbeth Salander. There will be pale copies in the future though, a lot.

    By the way, congrats on your review format, it's giving me ideas for my own thing...