Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


I decided to make my first blog review about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson because many of my friends have asked me about it. I'm not one to initially follow "the crowd" and read a book based on popularity alone. If I hear about it from enough people and the basic plot appeals to me, only then will I even consider reading it. And that was the case with this book. With the exception of the boring school assignment books (e.g., Jane Eyre, which I detested), I don't particularly like to come right out and say I totally disliked a book, particularly after I saw it through. I figure if I didn't put it down midway never to touch it again and I actually read it to the end, then I must have liked something. So I won't tell you I hated this book or even disliked it. But I definitely can't say I loved it because I'd be lying. I mean Pinocchio-nose kind of lying.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1) Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Goodreads Summary

Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch--and there's always a catch--is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo. 

My Review

So let me tell you what I did like about it. The "murder" mystery plot of this story is really what made me see the book through. At least once we actually got to that plot, which is something I'll get into later. I really did want to know what happened to Harriet Vagner. The Vanger family is big, with many characters, which makes finding out what happened to Harriet all the more difficult. As it went along I found myself making several theories as to what exactly occurred, which shows that the book wasn't by any means predictable. However, the abundance of characters and the factor that sometimes you would not hear about one or another for a great while did leave me thinking "now, who is that again?" a few times. Thank goodness for the family tree at the beginning of the book.

Speaking of the mystery, I'm not a religious person by any means, but for some reason I like the clue with the bible references. Not sure why. Maybe it was because it was a major break in the mystery at that particular point in the story and the clue was a unique one to me.

I also found Elisabeth Salander to be the most intriguing character of the entire book, which is most likely the way it was intended. I think for me it's the factor that she's one big mystery. She barely says anything, so when she does speak you give her your full attention. That's how the characters who interact with her respond to her and so do us readers. And despite her eccentricity and bad attitude, you feel for her. You truly cannot blame her for being the way she is. She's had a very hard life. She has difficulty expressing emotions and trusting anyone and every time she does she loses that person. But she is a survivor, she knows how to protect herself. You never know what she's going to do next and your jaw is hanging after she finishes.

Unfortunately, my like of this book pretty much ends there. Now let's go into what I didn't like about it. As I said, the "murder" mystery plot of the story helped me to see the book through to the end. However, the "murder" mystery wasn't the only plot in this book. Its the one that the summary of the book focuses on, but it's definitely not the only one. Herein lies the main problem, there was way too much going on. First you have Mikal's conviction of libel for an article he wrote about this guy Wennerstrom and you are made to believe there is a chance that he may have been set up. Then you have the mystery of Harriet Vagner which Mikal is secretly hired to investigate with the cover story of writing a book of the Vagner family. And then there is Elisabeth Salander, who is pretty much a plot or two by herself. Now I'm sure some of you are thinking what's the problem, there are only 2 major plots with the possibility of a subplot or two. When you put it that way, for some that's correct, there isn't a problem. My problem lies with the constant back and forth and the amount of detail between them. Take the background story of the libel conviction. I still don't exactly understand what happened there except the basics which is that he was given a false lead on a story about Wennerstrom and got caught. But the exact details, despite the factor that so much of it was given, I have no clue. If you're in the business world and understand that sort of thing then I guess your head won't swim as much. Mine, however, did. And from there its a back and forth between Mikal and the Vagner mystery and Elisabeth Salander until they meet each other and team up. The story doesn't really go back to Wennerstrom until like the last fourth of the book. I personally feel that the book should've been just about the Vagner mystery and the Wennerstrom stuff should not have been included. The last quarter of the book actually felt kind of rushed. Like there were so many subplots left open that had to be concluded and he rushed to conclude them.

However, I must say that I think a major source of the problem probably lies in the translation. In every language there are always terms and sayings that cannot be smoothly translated. And I feel that there may have been a lot of them in this book. So maybe the problem isn't so much the story itself but the loss of meaning when translated from Swedish to English.

Overall, I felt the book was okay. Not the best I've ever read but definitely not the worse. I don't regret seeing it through, but I'm still debating whether or not I want to go on to the second and third books.


  1. Just gave this a read and had to leave a brief note. Not sure if you've read the entire set of books since this post either...

    The book is only the first of The Millennium Trilogy, which was always meant to centralize Millennium as a paper/magazine and Blomkvist. The Wennerstrom affair is central to the entire trilogy and why we root for/somwtimes doubt Blomkvist, as well as serves the reason why he was secretly hired to solve Harriet's case- he was desperate enough to take the job because of Henrik's clout and money, and Henrik's hate of Wennerstrom and ability to champion Millennium through the legalities...

  2. Hi Mike, thanks for reading my blog and for commenting. It means a lot. No, I have not read the rest of the books yet. I've been reading a lot of other different books since so I haven't gotten around to it. But thank you for explaining that this was not the end of the Wennerstrom affair, although to me it felt like it was. I understood why Blomkvist took the job from Henrik, but what Henrik did still upsets me, but I guess when you have money and power and are desperate you'll do or say anything to get what you want/need. I personally root more for Salander than Blomkvist, but that's just me (and no it's not because she's a woman).