(Cover picture courtesy of The Book Cover Archive.)
Harriet Vanger, scion of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families, disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has certainly gathered a lot of attention from the media, but is all of the hype justified? In my opinion, absolutely!
The story starts off rather slowly, but there is something about Stieg Larsson’s writing style that keeps you hooked until things really start to get interesting. The main character, Mikael Blomkvist is a very three dimensional character that you can’t help but like, but the real star of the novel is Lisbeth Salander, a woman declared mentally incompetent by the state.
Lisbeth is so complex; she really is unlike any character I’ve encountered. She is incredibly smart and truly doesn’t care what anyone else thinks about her, yet we also see her more vulnerable side when she begins to fall in love with Mikael. Lisbeth is also incredibly opinionated and her opinions are very unorthodox and nearly always challenge the status quo. In a way, I think she is a mouthpiece for the author, who probably wouldn’t have dared to voice such opinions.
Stieg Larsson’s writing style is very descriptive, yet not so descriptive as to bore the reader. When he describes the beautiful Swedish countryside, you feel like you are really there, even if you have never been to Sweden. Despite this descriptive style, he manages to create a constant undercurrent of tension that grows ever larger as the novel progresses. A lot of credit for this has to go to Reg Keeland, who translated The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo into English from its original Swedish. Translating a novel into a different language while preserving the subtleties of the author’s style is ridiculously difficult and for that alone, Reg Keeland deserves much praise.
The plot of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo twists and turns with astonishing complexity, yet it is not overly difficult for readers to follow. It isn’t exactly fast-paced by conventional standards, but I guarantee that the last 200 pages will go by in the blink of an eye. The ending was a bit cliché—aside from Lisbeth’s decision, even though it stays true to her character—but was very satisfying all the same.
This book does contain explicit sex and violence. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone under the age of 14, at least. While it is a great book, it’s probably not good for sensitive readers.
I give this book 5/5 stars.