Book 1: Män som hatar kvinnor – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

Contents for Millennium Trilogy

  1. Book 1: Män som hatar kvinnor – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Review

Book 1 in the Millennium series, written by Sieg Larsson, is decoratively known under its original title as Män som hatar kvinnor, or Men who hate Women. However, in English, possibly to reduce controversies, it was published under the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo title. It tells the at first separate stories of Lisbeth Salander, an introverted and asocial woman, a complete mystery to the reader until later in the novel, who is an extraordinary freelance researcher for the security firm Milton Security. Alternatively, Mikael Blomkvist is a financial journalist just convicted of libel against billionaire industrialist Hans-Erik Wennerström, and although still believing Wennerström to be dirty, he resigns to his fate of three months of jail. His ideas change however when is contacted by the patriarch of the wealthy Vanger family, who has a strange request; that Mikael find the murderer of a great-niece he held dear, who disappeared 36 years ago. The two tales eventually merge together, but saying anymore would be considered a spoiler.

First and foremost, I liked this book. Like most books I read, I read them because everyone around me praises them. I am most definitely not a hipster. This particular book has been internationally acclaimed, and critics around the world declared their love for the late author, and his complex characters. I have much to say in this review, so I'll try to organise it in some manner.

The writing was very well done, very smooth, although I always believe that authors' styles get lost in translations, so at any rate, the translator, Steve Murray (pen name Reg Keeland), did a great job. Sometimes, chapters ended almost like episodes on a drama series, I could almost hear the Da Da DAAA!! COME BACK NEXT WEEK TO FIND OUT MORE! The writing was also confusing at times, in the way with which we were sometimes given the characters' thoughts, although this was only with Mikael and Lisbeth, but other times they had ideas or theories, and we were only in on the secret when they told another character. This was probably to heighten the suspense, which it did for the main plot points, but it was also a contradiction of itself. We know more about Lisbeth as the reader than any of the characters, and yet when she has an idea, we are the last to know about it, usually a chapter later.

Lisbeth Salander as portrayed by Noomi Rapace in the Swedish movie adaptation.

Which brings us to my next point. The characters, starting with Lisbeth. Lisbeth is just Lisbeth Salander. There is no real way to describe her, only reading the book can allow you to come up with your own illusions of her. From her reactions and attitude, I can only claim that she must have suffered plenty of abuse as a child, in addition to what she suffers in the book. Other reviewers seem to believe her personality is so warped because of what we know she goes through during the book, but I believe she became the Lisbeth we know much earlier than that. What we see is how she deals with what she has more or less become used to, no matter how much she hates it. The original Swedish title says it all: Men who hate women. Needless to say, I didn't like Lisbeth. It didn't make her any less of a great protagonist for the story: she was the ultimate stand against misogyny, and yet I just found her warped life and personality to be too much. Stieg Larsson made an extreme of what happens in society. I know that abuse against women is everywhere, but she, to me, really felt like an extreme example meant to shock the reader. Of course, I only mention this in passing, but let's not forget the women who hate men, too. Although significantly smaller, such abuse does exist, and is often overlooked. But this is the subject for an intense debate, so let's instead return to the review.

The other protagonist, Mikael, I also didn't like. But for different reasons. If I met him in real life, I would just take an instant dislike to him. I admire his dedication to work however, and how he just pushes himself to do it. I found him to be rather typical, if slightly sarcastic, with a strange love life. He doesn't have much for me to talk about. I can say that I find his reactions annoying, and the only good thing I like about him is his ideas. Although not all of them.

Mikael Blomkvist as portrayed by Michael Nyqvist in the Swedish movie adaptation

This won't be much of a spoiler, considering that the two protagonists are male and female, but I must say I was actually disappointed when Mikael and Lisbeth hooked up and became lovers. The novel offered such a good plot, with twists of originality, and for once a heroine without double D size breasts, knocking conventional Hollywood badass heroines right out of the ball park. Lisbeth wasn't both the women's idol and the men's fantasy. She was just... herself. I wouldn't want to be Lisbeth, regardless of her gifts, and although I can't speak for men, I doubt she fits into the usual fantasies. That's why, when they got together, although far from romantic, I was just disappointed with Stieg Larsson. He tried to create a non-victim victim heroine (that'll only really make sense if you read the book...), but the universal Hollywood influence still showed itself in the ending.

The other characters were somewhat developed, and I liked most of them. But let's talk evasively about the bad guys. I can't name names you see, that would be a spoiler, and Wennerström isn't a bad guy in my book, because we never even meet the guy. He's just a face to a driving force. As with Lisbeth, I though the bad guy was an extreme example of what he/she (no hints!) would be. The climax of the book was so extreme it was almost unrealistic.

The violence itself is pretty graphic and it really sets the mood for a good, original plot, but as I said, the ending being an extreme, it completely eradicates the feeling and build up the 'every day' violence we saw earlier on gave.

So to wrap up, the characters can't be placed under a category, they are realistic, although the bad guy and Lisbeth are too stereotypical, if you will, for my taste, and I find it ruins the build up of the book with it's portrayal of violence against women seen everyday. The same goes for the ending, as that's when we know who the bad guy is, his story, etc. Additionally, the end would be somewhat lacking, but it could have finished as it did. I have a feeling the next book will feel more like another adventure entirely, like the Harry Potters or Alex Riders, instead of a saga which is continued on and stopping at a particular book would be like stopping at a particular chapter in the overall story.

Although I found many faults, I still liked the book, and prefer the Swedish title, I think it suits it more, but on the other hand, I like the "Girl with/who" pattern that emerged from the English translation. I recommend the book to everyone with the stomach to face societies extremes in relations to abuse against women. It's almost an eye opener in a way. I do recommend a basic knowledge of Swedish government and industry, because sometimes those parts can get a bit confusing. A lot of books and authors, among other things, are referenced as well, so Swedish general culture is advised. If you prefer not to take on general culture of a different country just to read a few books, then at least inform yourself of Astrid Lindgren. Her work often comes up in the novel, and is the explanation behind Mikael's nickname.

Those are my thoughts, so go read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to form your own. Enjoy!

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