A recent re-read prompted a spontaneous re-review.
Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there’s always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson’s novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don’t want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo.
MY RATING: 4 STARS
Really more like 3 3/4, but that’s not really an option, is it? Books never read the same way twice, but this was ridiculous! What only gave me minor irritation the first time was unbearable the second time, and I formed completely different opinions about Blomkvist. Salander, though, was even more of a bad ass.
I’ll try to keep this short and sweet, avoiding spoilers where possible. The set-up at the beginning of the book, detailing Blomkvist’s libel conviction and Henrik Vanger’s oral history of the Vanger tribe and niece Harriet’s disappearance were excruciating to the point where I don’t even know how I managed to persevere through it the first time. I ended up skimming most of it in my re-read so I could cut right to the action. You can get away with that when you already know what’s going on, but it was awfully disorienting. And I don’t know if it’s the fact that something gets lost in translation, but the writing style wasn’t to my taste when I stopped to think about it. It was mostly exposition, written so matter-of-factly that it came across as bland. The excitement doesn’t come until things start moving forward with the investigation, but you still have to wait over one hundred pages for that to happen. I’ll repeat my statement from my original review: I hope you’re paying rapt attention.
Onto Blomkvist. I liked him the first time, not so much the second. I don’t even know why he suddenly rubs me the wrong way! He’s still got the same ethics and the same attitude, but it struck me as being more cavalier this time and not always in a good way. Maybe it’s all on behalf of Salander…more about her later. I still like the way the two of them interact and still think they make a good team, but wherever she clashes with him, I take her side. He’s all right, but he’s not my favorite.
This is more of an opinion on the issue than the book itself, but violence in general sickens me and especially violence towards women. And The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo deals with some of the most sadistic, disgusting stuff I’ve ever heard of. It bothered me the first time, and even more the second time. All but one scene is off-camera and told through secondary means, and the other…front row seat, and it’s not pretty. None of it is too graphic, but it will probably be the reason I don’t re-read this as often as I might.
I was a fan of Lisbeth Salander from the get-go, but she was even better going back. I swear, she has got to be the toughest, edgiest character I’ve ever read, period. She had enormous potential to be unsympathetic, but the moments when her emotions broke through her frigid exterior kept her real. To me, whenever she was angry or let herself be vulnerable was when she was at her strongest and most accessible. She’s not like everyone else, and yet she’s so normal. She has insecurities, fears, and secrets, and she wants the same things we all do: security, independence, privacy, respect. I’m not sure she represents a good trend in what strong female characters should be, but the more I thought about it the more I realized I read this book for her, and she will be the reason I come back to it.
There you have it. When I pick it apart, I can’t imagine what was so great about this book, but when seen as a whole, it makes sense. A compelling mystery, an intriguing protagonist, all grounds enough for a good read. In the interests of fairness I had to bring my original rating down, but Salander always gets full marks from me.