The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — Review by Chris

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a well-written novel with interesting characters and a compelling story. It started off like gangbusters with an intriguing first few pages describing an old man receiving a mysterious gift in the mail, continued ripe with suspense and intrigue, and ended with heartbreak. I should really have liked it.

However, I didn't like it, and I wouldn't recommend it to another reader.

First and foremost, it was very lurid. I stopped watching the television shows CSI and Law & Order because every crime seemed to involve a young, attractive woman who was raped and/or murdered in gross, horrifying ways. The excruciating details of these crimes laid bare in 42 minutes made me ill.

Such was the case with this book. Every section title page included a statistic regarding violence against women, so we had an idea that more would be revealed. Two main female characters were brutalized, and as the story unfolded, so did the immensity and scope of their brutalization. To their credit, neither accepted the mantle of "victim," and each found a way to make herself a "survivor."

The number of women who were not survivors, however, is staggering. The range and the luridness of these crimes literally disgusted me. Readers have to plow through this information to get to the end, and it is a terrible path to have to take. I didn't need to read such tragic stories.

Author Steig Larrson, may he rest in peace, touts Lisbeth as quite the hero. I suppose she is — but at such a cost that I wish he hadn't created her. Maybe she isn't a victim, and never will be, but what she experienced still broke my heart.

The rest of the book deals with finance, corporate greed and corruption, romance, family intrigue, mystery, history, journalistic integrity, Swedish law and the love of Apple products. Oh, and computer hacking. And possibly autism. Are all of these important? Sure, but I couldn't get past the awfulness of the crimes to which the women in this book were subjected.

It also seemed interminable: the book was much like the Energizer bunny and I just so wanted someone to find a way to thwart it. Just when I thought the violence toward women couldn't get any worse, it did. (By the way, men were brutalized, too, and it was quite terrible as well.)

I recently discovered the Swedish title originally was Män som hatar kvinnor (which translates to Men who hate women), and it made the book more intriguing — until I got to the horrors, then I understood exactly what the title meant. It didn't make the revelations in the book any less awful, or more intriguing.

Stieg Larrson wrote two sequels to this book, the second of which, The Girl Who Played With Fire, was published this summer. I won't read either of them.


Katie said...

Oh dear, Chris. I just finished this book and then came back to read your blog post which I'd forgotten about from last year. I am in 100% agreement on every point you make. Too lurid, too detailed, too much, too long. Ugh. I feel brutalized after reading this book. Why the acclaim?

Chris said...

I don't know why the acclaim, Katie. And two sequels selling like hotcakes!