Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I wasn't immune to the positive buzz surrounding The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Not only did the book receive wonderful reviews, it became a commercial success with a large and loyal audience. Fearing I had been missing one of the great mystery novels of our time, I bit the bullet and picked it up last week.

And now? Now I'm confused.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the story of disgraced financial magazine publisher Mikael Blomkvist. Set up and convicted of libel, Blomkvist is hired by the elderly head of the once-mighty Vanger family to investigate the 40 year old disappearance of his teenage grandniece. Soon he is joined by the titular character, 24 year old researcher Lisbeth Salander. Salander is an odd character, even for a fictional world. Heavily tattooed but physically the size of a teenager, she is brilliant yet declared mentally incompetent by the courts. She is
prone to calculated violence and haunted by her past. Together they dig to learn the fate of the missing girl, while all the while a killer closes in on them.

Here's my take on the novel.

I thought the book started horribly slow and was quite tedious. Judging by this book Larsson was quite prone to distraction, and the prose wanders off on a tangent as often as not.

So for 200 pages I was bored - I told someone it was like watching paste dry - but committed. Then slowly, slowly, slowly, I actually started to *care* about the mystery. I think it is largely due to the sheer weight of all the background you're given on the characters, and the time you spend with them; you're damn near forced to care by default. And I'll admit that Salander is a dynamic and captivating character.

100 pages from the end I could admit to being legitimately spooked at the idea of heading into my dark basement to retrieve a load of laundry.

The mystery resolved with a bang, and then the book plodded on for another 50 pages or more! Yes, it allowed for the resolution of the magazine subplot, but honestly - who cared?

Honestly, while I wound up liking the book, all the hoopla and praise seems surreal. I dislike Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, but I could see why others would buy into the frenzy. I'm not sure why this wasn't left on the shelves gathering dust. Even if I'm wrong and the book is an all-time classic, it is not something I'd expect to entertain an American audience. Color me surprised.

I don't know. All those points against it and I'm still going to read the next one (I'm 70 page in, actually). So who knows - maybe the author made a pact with the devil to win fans. It worked for Stephanie Myers :)

1st half C-
2nd half B+ (A to A+ if you stop after the main plot is complete)
Overall B-


Bridgett said...

Hmmm. I can't decide if this sounds like something I'd want to read or not.

Slow beginnings make it hard for me to like a book (especially 200 pages of slow beginnings).

Nevertheless, I always love your book reviews. So thanks!

Slapinions said...

Yeah, it's an odd one. I still don't know how I feel about it.

BTW re: Easter eggs. We used two types of dye. The first was just homemade food coloring and vinegar, and the second were a pair of kits we bought for 75 cents the day after Easter '09. I can't remember what they were, other than they produced golden and metallic eggs.