Review: The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

Book Cover: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonName of Book: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
By: Stieg Larsson
Publisher: Knopf
Copyright Date: 208
Number of Pages: 575
Format: fiction
Reason for Reading: the short version: A. made me

Why I caved (the long version):

I am one of the remaining stragglers when it comes to this book. It seems like everyone and their dog has read it already. I have resisted and resisted and resisted. My sister read this last November.  She had her face stuck in this book all during Thanksgiving break. She has been telling me to read it ever since. Almost everyone in my book club has read and recommended it. Regardless, this book did not appeal to me. At. All.  Every time I thought about reading this my whole being said an emphatic NO.

I have mentioned before that one of my best friends and I have a two person book club going on. Or you could call it a read-a-long. Basically we take turns picking out books to read together. (We have been doing this for two years now.) This time it was her turn. She chose the Millennium series. As in-let’s read the whole series together. That is the beauty of book clubs. They get you to read books you wouldn’t otherwise touch with a ten foot pole, yes?

This was decided in late June, early July (after I dragged my feet reading Pride and Prejudice). I bought the book on the eighteenth of July at the DFW airport. A few days later I read the prologue. Decided that it was interesting enough. However, instead of following through, I chose that as the perfect moment to cave on  Vampire Academy. (Another series my sister was bugging me about.)

It wasn’t until I was bound for a fourteen hour flight that I finally gave in. Mind you, A., had already  polished off the series and here I was giving one last show of resistance. It was the only physical book I brought with me besides the travel guide. After reading all the magazines available I finally, finally opened up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

And twenty pages in, I was hooked.

For the remaining stragglers who don’t know what the story is about (the short version):

Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist hired by Henry Vanger to solve an old family mystery of the disappearance/murder of his niece forty years ago. Lisbeth is a hacker who has been hired by Henry Vanger’s lawyer to investigate Mikael. Together their paths eventually collide, and they team up to figure out what really happened to Harriet Vanger all those years ago. In the process they dig up more secrets than they bargained for, and their lives may be in danger because of it.

Obviously the story is more complicated than that. It is nearly six hundred pages long, so it better be. Everyone I know who has read it thought it started off slow. I’m not gonna lie. This was a big part of the deterrent for me.  I didn’t want to have to work that hard to get into a story. What if I didn’t like it? Frankly, I didn’t want to waste my time. However, I didn’t find the beginning slow at all. It was a slow build, the way a fire kindles and takes it time becoming a full-on blaze.

My thoughts:

I appreciated the intricacy of the story. Others could perhaps find it convoluted.  I liked learning the background of the different characters. The world of Millennium absolutely came alive for me. I am completely ignorant of Sweden’s geography, weather, and laws, not to mention Swedish culture so that was an added bonus for me, getting a glimpse inside another country in an intimate way.

The material is dark. There is some extreme violence. However, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a violent novel. There are only a few instances of instances of true violence, but the secrets that Mikael and Lisbeth uncover are very disturbing and violent in nature.

I loved the character of Lisbeth. She is not your usual protagonist. She is anti-social, gruff, but totally kickass.  She is fiercely independent and can absolutely take care of herself. Mikael was also fascinating. I appreciated his reactions to Lisbeth. He was very accepting and didn’t give her the usual crap that other people did.  I also really liked Lisbeth’s boss Dragon.

A short comparison to the movie:

After I read the book I promptly viewed it on Netflix. Again everyone I know who has read the book has raved about the movie.  I did like it. I think Noomi Rapace was nearly perfect as Lisbeth. I think the changes that were made were necessary as the book is so long. However, I felt like they made some changes to the character of Blomkvist that weren’t in line with the story. The way he related to Lisbeth in the movie was different than in the book.  I felt that the movie sacrificed a bit of his character integrity for the sake of exposition.

I very much enjoy foreign films and appreciate how different the tonal quality is from American ones. I love listening to other languages. However, I think the book ruined the movie experience for me just a smidge.  I think I am going to watch the next two movies first, then read the books. On a different note, I got such a kick out of noticing how certain Swedish words sounded exactly like the English caption, just a bit gruffer.

So I’m curious. How many of you have read this? What were your thoughts? Are there any stragglers continuing a show of resistance in the face of a book with a tremendous amount of hype surrounding it?

This entry was posted in Fiction, Posts by Jehara, thriller and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Review: The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo

  1. Faith says:

    Like you, if a book is universally praised, I’m automatically prejudiced against it. Perhaps it’s because there’s enough hipster in me (joke) that if it’s popular I think it must not be good. But sometimes I’m able to overcome my prejudice and give the book a try, and find that I like it. There are others that I don’t.

    I prefer not to discuss the reasons I decided to read this particular book, as it brings up some unpleasant memories of someone I’d just as soon forget. However, I loved it. Loved, loved, loved it. And the sequels. It was just amazing. I’m sorry that there will never be another book with these characters, because Stieg Larsson created a fascinating world.

    • jehara says:

      Usually when I finally do give into hype, I enjoy the book. I don’t know why I take so long, but I continue to do so. Next up: The Hunger Games. 🙂

  2. I hope to read this before the end of 2011. Hope I can handle it…LOL Just skimmed your review:)

  3. Kimberly says:

    Haven’t read these either; you weren’t alone!

  4. Bumbles says:

    Oy – I think I am one of the only people who did NOT enjoy this book. I became quite annoyed with the plot. I did love Lisbeth’s character and the moments with her were terrific. I decided not to read any further in the series, but am reconsidering since their focus is more on her. I have yet to see the movie – I will be interested in comparing the Swedish one to the upcoming Americanized take…

    • jehara says:

      Well, I think I was the only one who didn’t find the beginning slow.
      This may sound weird, but sometimes I take comfort in knowing that not everyone likes a hyped up book. Unless it is Harry Potter haha. 😉

  5. Trisha says:

    You aren’t the last for sure. I haven’t started the series yet.

  6. I was reluctant to read it, but then I downloaded the Kindle book….and even after I started it, I had doubts. It took quite awhile to hook me. To say that it started slow would be an understatement. And the names…well, it was kind of like reading a Russian novel.

    But once Lisbeth became a bigger part of the story, I couldn’t put it down.

    I have the second book in the trilogy, but in paperback I have problems with Kindle if the book is one where I’d like to flip back and forth to check details. I’ll have an easier time of it in the print format.

    Thanks for the great review.

    • jehara says:

      I gave my copy away to my UK friend as I was trying to free up luggage space. I was debating if I should get the next one on my Kindle, but you have given me pause. I think I will seek out paperback. You have a good point with the flipping back and forth. I did do that with this one.

    • Jill L. says:

      OMG I’m glad someone else had doubts like me. I just started reading the book (only about 12 pages into it). I am very doubtful, but my friends have told me how good books 2 and three are. So I’m trying to get into it. The names…..ugghh. I agree they are difficult. I keep thinking I am never going to remember who is who. But I’m going to stick it out. From all the reviews I have read (including yours) it gets better. I hope so!! I usually like when a book grabs my attention right away…and makes me not want to put it down. This one, I keep putting down every two pages. Maybe when I get to Lisbeth it will get better. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!!

      • jehara says:

        Well, after I read the first eight pages I didn’t pick the book up again for another two months. If I had read it in fits and starts I might have found it slower; however, being in the air for hours with nothing else to do probably aided my feelings. I do think the story picks up after Lisbeth enters the picture. She is such an interesting character.

  7. Staci says:

    I still haven’t read it!! 😀 But I will certainly be reading it along with my dogs (LOL!) next year! The movies rock!

  8. Since I read a lot of murder/mystery, I thought this book wasn’t bad but not as good as some others I’d read. Lisbeth definitely is a memorable character, but the plot wasn’t as strong as some others (and at times too many sub-plots?). Perhaps if the translation was done better or edited better, it would become a tighter/faster paced story. I wasn’t too surprised about the twist, could kinda saw it coming. Here’s my review:

    I didn’t read book 2 or 3, I just watched the movies 🙂 I did like the movie better than the book (#1) because they cut out a lot of fluff. Movie #2 wasn’t bad, but I didn’t like #3 – it just seemed to be contamination of movie #2 instead.

  9. Louise says:

    I read it last year and loved it. Although the very beginning and the very end did drag. When it was more about the mystery part rather than financial investigative journalism, it is fabulous. I haven’t had time to read the rest of the series as yet though.

  10. Kailana says:

    I have owned this book for ages and STILL haven’t read it.. One day I will see what I think of it…

  11. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I haven’t got to it yet either, I will eventually 🙂

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  12. Margot says:

    I haven’t read it either and probably won’t. My husband read them all and really liked them. That was a surprise to the whole family because his favorite reading material are westerns and thrillers. I know everyone loves the book, and I probably should give them a try, but something is holding me back. Even your lovely review and this nice discussion here in the comments didn’t sway me. I may end up being the only one who holds out.

    • izzybella says:

      Margot, I may be a hold-out along with you. I don’t know why, I just don’t want to read it. I admit that’s not exactly a great reason, but I just don’t.

    • Kimberly says:

      I don’t know if I’ll read it either . . . not because I think I won’t like it, but because there are a lot of books ahead of it in my TBR pile that I’m more excited to read. If I make it through them all and I add nothing else in the meantime, then I’ll pick it up. 😉

  13. Josh says:

    I’m curious why you were so resistant to read this?
    I, being a sucker for good advertising, read it because of the interesting title.

    I thought Larsson’s suggestions about power, money, and sex was very intriguing. On one swing of the pendulum, promiscuity is normal and promoted (by Blomkvist and Lisbeth slept with who they liked); while on the other swing of the pendulum, the insane sexual actions of the Vanger family. In both cases, Larsson shows extremes are destructive to the family unit.

    I agree that Lisbeth is an interesting protagonist, because her weakness (social awkwardness) balances her strength (computer hacking) and intertwines with it. Additionally, she blames her amazing ability of photographic memory for her social awkwardness.

    I also thought it was very interesting how Blomkvist started the book by fighting a major corporation, and then spent the novel helping one.

    In closing, I’m glad that Daniel Craig will be playing Blomkvist in the American version.

    Thanks for post,

  14. Michelle says:

    You are not the only person. I am still a hold-out. Surprisingly, my husband read this entire series before me, watched the Swedish movies and now wants to attend the US version’s movie on opening day. Of course, he also bothers me about once a week to start reading them. I’m sure they are great, but I think all the hype has just made me not want to read it right now. Try me again in another few years, and I’ll probably cave too.

  15. stacybuckeye says:

    I am resister, but know that I will give in someday.

  16. Pingback: Analysis of Books Read in 2011 + A Survey |

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