A Book Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Swedish author - Stieg Larsson
My Verdict: Simply wonderful! It is addictive, thrilling and fast paced!
A pleasure to read. Simple, easy flowing language straight from the heart. The novel starts off on an interesting note with the trial between the protagonist Mikeal Blomkvist and Wennerström, an industrialist of repute. I thought it would be the main story but it is only a wrapper for the real thing. This book outsold the bible in Stockholm – I read it from cover to cover pausing only when I had to go to work, eat, sleep and such like. In Swedish it is named - Men who hate women.
The main Characters
The main protagonist Mikeal Blomkvist is a likeable young man in his early forties, talented, unpretentious, a warm person with absolutely no airs about himself. He writes for a living and in his leisure, seeks comfort in the company of books. He is fondly called Kalle Blomkvist by the press (a famous character by Astrid Lindgren who appears in many of her novels) but is not particularly fond of the epithet himself.
I especially liked the character of the girl with the dragon tattoo – a non conformist – flouts rules of society –has only one rule – don’t disturb me and I will not disturb you but society doesn’t leave you alone when you don’t obey its rules. She suffers from Asperger’s disease that means she is brilliant but very lopsided. Society puts obstacles in her path and she accepts them as a part of her life because she has no understanding of how to deal with society. She is not emotionally equipped to tackle problems that come in her way, as she can only understand cold logic and calculations. She remains a mysterious figure all through the novel allowing no one – not even the reader to come close. Larsson’s unconventional choice of heroine- Lisbeth Salander, who is 24 but looks like an adolescent about 14 years of age with many tattoos, is what sets him apart.
Then there is the upper class- city bred- coming from old money -Erika Berger. She is Mikeal’s long-standing girlfriend. This novel gives you a glimpse of the morally permissible society in Sweden where Erika Berger is actually a married woman whose husband is fully cognizant of Mikeal’s existence as her lover. She divides time evenly between the two men in her life. She loves both but has a mind of her own, which is uninfluenced by either of them. Society usually likes to have double standards about women but here the woman had equal rights to explore. Moreover, all the characters in the book have their own set of ethics and moral standards, which do not confirm with society and they are frank enough with themselves to admit it.
The Plot in a nutshell
When you plunge, deeper into the novel you are engrossed by the intriguing tale of the hugely eccentric, egoistic and mysterious Vanger family who were the leading industrialist family many years ago. The head of the Vanger family- Henrik Vanger who lives in Hedesby (a tiny island several hours from Stockholm) is burdened by the deeds of his crazy and fanatic clan who were members of various [censored] associations in their heyday. Henrik Vanger loathes almost all surviving members of his large unwieldy family. However, the patriarch is satisfied with way the current CEO Martin Vanger is giving direction to what is now left of the once huge empire. Henrik Vanger is headstrong and used to having his way. He is shrewd and even at the age of 82 – drives a good bargain. He is baffled by a mystery he could not solve in 40 years and does not want to die without getting to the bottom of it.
Some touches I enjoyed
Larsson has always described what the characters are eating (simple uncomplicated food most of the times like open rye sandwiches) just like Enid Blyton does in her books. Names of Larsson’s favorite authors are peppered throughout the book – Dorothy Sayers, Agatha Christie, Sue Grafton, Val McDermind and most notably Astrid Lindgren. In fact Larsson’s heroine Lisbeth Salandar is modeled after the character of Pippi Longstocking created by Astrid Lindgren. He also mentions details like brand names, chain stores, train stops, names of places in Stockholm which makes it all the more appealing for readers as it gives them something they can relate to. You experience a slice of the European life and the relaxed pace of living in small town Hedeby as you read.
What makes this book a compelling read is the way the author has spun the story. There are books with much better plots but Larsson is an expert storyteller. Once you read ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’, you will surely come back asking for more.