Hello again all!
I really seem to be tearing through books this time around, and it’s quite a surprise for me because normally, for a book this big I’d take a couple of weeks to read it.
Not this time.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, the first book in the Millennium trilogy is, quite simply FANTASTIC. I mean that in all seriousness. I just finished reading it a few seconds ago and had to jump on here and talk about it because it was so good.
Let me outline the points for you.
First of all, it’s fast-paced. I didn’t quite know what to expect from Larsson, especially since I haven’t read all that many crime novels (let alone Swedish ones), but the end result is a gripping, high-octane plot that had me sitting on the edge of my seat and hoping against all hope that everything would turn out all right in the end.
Second, Larsson’s writing reflects the plotline. It starts off a little slow and meandering, without much in the way of a ‘hook’ to draw the reader in. You start reading and think ‘oh, this might be vaguely interesting’ and keep persevering with the piece, until suddenly BOOM! It’s all systems go and you’re hurtling along at a breakneck pace, trying to keep up just for the sake of finding out what happens next. The ‘speed’ at which the writing moves matches the actions in the novel perfectly, and it doesn’t lag unnecessarily.
Speaking of unnecessary, there is absolutely nothing in the book that isn’t used later on. It’s a prime example of what Swedish writing is like – in University I read a short story called The Stone Waves or something along those lines by another Swedish writer (I think he was Swedish, if not then definitely a country like it for instance Norway) and it was just as intriguing and required a large amount of digging to get the meaning – and also means that it facilitates the reader’s attention. The less there is to get distracted by, the more you’re going to enjoy what was meant to be enjoyed. No side-plots, no segues off into the snowy wilderness, and best of all the relationships between the characters are for the most part clean, written in an essentialist style, and don’t manage to gross out the reader, in this case myself. Occasionally there were a few, erm, shall I say unpleasant parts (I use that term very broadly), but even they served a purpose which was gradually revealed throughout the novel.
Fourth, I was able to connect to the characters on a very deep level. This is what writing should do. Readers should be allowed to fully understand a character, even if not everything is said about them in the piece itself. Putting this across in so many words is a tricky thing to do if you’re a writer, but it’s worth it.
The two gripes I would have with this work are not major ones, but I believe in hearing both sides so it’s only fair to air out the dirty laundry so to speak. First of all, Mikael Blomkvist. Overall, a nicely rounded character in terms of knowing who he is (and thus letting the readers know), but I found his age never seemed to be an established fact. At least it wasn’t in my perception. I felt he would have been much better placed as in his mid-thirties, rather than forties, and it would have still given room for the dynamics of the relationship between him and Lisbeth Salander. Second, the translation could have been a little more refined. The book was originally written in Swedish, and though for the most part the English translation was correct, there were words missing, prepositions were left out and occasionally (though not more than two or three times) there were misspellings. These minor errors don’t impact the flow of the work at all, but even so for a publishable book it’s not really appropriate for there to be such errors in the print.
To finish off on a high note though, there was a nice surprise near the end of the novel.
AUSTRALIA GOT A MENTION!!
This is exciting for a number of reasons:
- It’s always nice to read about your home country from someone else’s perspective
- Australia (in my opinion) is never mentioned enough in literature from around the world, or in fact in literature from Australian authors who don’t write about their home country
- I never knew there were so many sheep near Longreach (yes, there are other animals living here besides kangaroos)
- Finally, any book that involves travel to distant countries (think of the distance between Australia and Sweden) gives it an international flavour and means that more people will read it from all over the world, not just from one country.
All in all I would definitely recommend The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to anyone, even if it’s your first introduction to crime fiction in general. It’s got action, romance, intrigue, a high speed car chase and heinous crimes to boot. It’s also a smashing read, and I look forward to reading any comments that others might decide to post on the subject. I also plan on watching the movie, and reading the next one in the series.
So stay tuned for the next instalment, because I don’t think this roller-coaster is planning on slowing down any time too soon.