I volunteered to be one of the discussants for @Neamhspleachas' monthly book club. Here is my review of this month's book: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." Discussion takes place tomorrow (Friday, 4/29) on Facebook. Other reviews will be posted on her blog.
I received a copy of “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” as a Christmas present three years ago. In all that time it sat lingering on my “books I still need to read” shelf. I’m not really sure why I never picked it up. It was certainly a book that was recommended by many friends. I generally enjoy mysteries/crime novels/thrillers. For no particular reason, I never picked it up, even though I accumulated the other books in the series. So when Neamhspleachas added it to her book club, I took the chance to review it mostly so I would finally be forced to clear it off my shelf.
It should be the kind of book I enjoy: it involves a family history, a dark mystery, and lots of subplots. I just couldn’t get into it. It’s not a bad book, and there are moments of suspense. I generally enjoyed it, but it didn’t live up to the hype of others. Mostly I think because in several sections (especially the beginning and end) the book seemed badly in need of an editor. I did enjoy the characterizations of Salander and Blomqvist (the two protagonists).
I guess the number one thing that I took away from reading this book was wondering if Swedish culture and the Swedish psyche really is as dark as it is portrayed in the book. I’ve never been to Sweden, and sadly the most interaction I have had with anything Swedish has come in the shape of gelatinous fish, a 70s pop group, and cheap furniture. One doesn’t exactly think of dark, brutal misogynists and Nazi sympathizers when thinking of Swedish people, but that is largely the world portrayed in this book. After finishing the book, I turned to Google to see if I could find out more. I’ve always thought of the Scandinavian countries as countries where liberal democratic ideals reign supreme. Apparently, the dark side of Swedish society portrayed in “Girl” is not unrealistic. I never knew about the long history of Nazism in Sweden, or how prevalent violence against women is.
Since I own them and they are sitting on my shelf of books to read, I plan to read the other two books in the series (“The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest”). However, the most powerful thing I took away from “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” wasn’t about beautiful prose, a well-crafted story, or even interesting characterizations. It was an interest in finding out more about Swedish history and culture in an attempt to understand how a country touted as “the most democratic in the world” by the Economist can have such a dark undercurrents.