Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Random Book Review: "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" by Steig Larsson

I'm always a little wary of tremendously popular books.

Perhaps this is because the hype often snowballs way beyond what any ordinary novel could deliver. I never was one for peer pressure, spent my high school years railing against the popular kids with their banal yet popular tastes. So it came as no surprise that "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" disappointed me.

Don't get me wrong, I was thoroughly engrossed in the mystery of Harriet Vanger's disappearance. I page-turned with the best of them. I liked the characters, especially the girl with the dragon tattoo, who is fresh and interesting and very real.

But by the time I finished GWTDT, I felt like I'd involved myself in an overly long, Swedish version of "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit". Exactly like that. The novel has enough tawdriness and sex crimes to fill a whole season of SVU and the financial wheelings and dealings (the other big plot point) are rather dry and uninteresting.

Mostly, I guess I felt manipulated by this book, and a bit like I did in high school when everybody and his brother thought Journey was the best thing going.


Les Edgerton said...

Totally agree with you, Perri! A couple of years ago when this first came out, a friend of mine emailed me and asked me to read it. He said he had and it seemed to break a ton of rules about good writing and couldn't figure out why it was popular. He thought it was because of something he called "the creepiness factor." (Still don't know what he meant by that.)

If he hadn't urged me to read it, I would have quit far before about page 90. Not a single thing going on. The rest was okay, but not worth the furor.

Then, I learned some things about the author. He was the editor of the most left-wing mag in Sweden for starters. Which I suspect carried a lot of weight in publication decisions. There's a bit of a "romantic" element in that he died after delivering the three manuscripts. Good story. I don't think with these elements in place it would have been published so easily... or publicized much. I read the second which was eminently forgettable and have the third, which I put down after about 100 pages. Just a snooze.

I do expect it to be up for major awards, taking into account the politics of those awards...

And, then there's a movie, which proves it wasn't much good... This year's "English Patient"... The one your artsy-fartsy girlfriend drags you to...

(Gonna get comments on this...)

Saumya said...

Okay, thank you for writing this because I read the first 26 pages of this book and could not moved on. It was during a trip to Barnes and Noble so I did not buy the book but I always wondered if it was the write choice. Hope you find a good book for the holidays!

Mary Mary said...

I haven't read this book even though so many people have told me I should do so. I think it's for the same reasons I haven't read Twilight (outside of the bad writing in those novels). The big splashy ones rarely seem great. A lot of hype, like you said, but they don't really deliver in the end. Thanks for the review!

Lt. Cccyxx said...

I also have stayed away from this series despite its popularity. It just never seemed appealing. And your review confirms what I have suspected about it.

Shawn said...

I am one of those who loved this book, but I read it before it became so popular and I loved it anyway. I liked the moodiness of the atmosphere, the depth of the female protagonist's character, and the page turning suspense of the thrill of what's going to happen next. But the genre of action/adventure crime novel is the one I like best for escape, especially if it is set in a foreign clime as that feels like traveling. The nuances of character development are always there when the novel is well written, illustrating the authors cultural experience and background.
Steig did a brilliant job with this capturing the setting and the culture of Sweden.So, I'm sorry you didn't like it, so you probably won't be reading the next two in the series that finish the story.

Travener said...

I stayed away from it for a long time, because I don't usually have the stamina for 750-page books. But finally I picked up a copy...and couldn't put it down.

I agree it breaks a lot of the rules that supposedly make for a good novel. It's only at about 200 pages that it really gets going.

I think part of its success is in its interesting characters, particularly "the girl," who is a unique character. And who knew that Sweden had such a dark underside? I did find a lot of it surprisingly creepy. But whatever magic Larssen uses and however hard it is to fathom, for me, at least, it worked.

What was almost the most interesting thing for me was how much coffee Swedes drink, even late into the night, without losing their ability to get to sleep.