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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heidi Reviews Stieg Larsson's.. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Heidi Cheramie

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage)


Everyone has heard of this book. It is the international bestseller that has spawned a successful Swedish movie and the United States is currently searching Hollywood to cast their own version.

The author, Stieg Larrson was a Swedish journalist who wrote about neo nazis and fascists and died tragically in his thirties from a heart attack before he ever saw his three novels published. I thought often of the author while reading this book and wished he could have enjoyed the popularity of his books.

I am a little torn in my review. Possibly I was expecting too much since there has been so much hype and press about this book and the movie. I feel like the author put too much in the novel. There are many subplots and the mystery of a young girls disappearance from an island in the sixties doesn’t really start until halfway through the novel. This book deals with so many subjects. It touches on journalism, ethics, computer hacking, violence towards women, neo nazis, the corporate world and their dishonesty even the Swedish mental health system. However, I enjoyed every subject and found it a learning experience. Larsson’s scathing observations on the corporate world and the stock market is amazing considering this book was written several years before the problems in the United states. It seems Mr. Larrson could predict it was coming.

I really enjoyed the character, Lisbeth Salander. She is the girl with the dragon tattoo. She is a skinny, goth girl with a photogenic memory and incredible computer hacking skills. At one point in the book the author mentions she might have Aspbergers Syndrome. I don’t believe so but it is an interesting theory and I look forward to his second book to learn more about the fascinating Lisbeth.

The most intriguing part of the novel for me was the background portrayal of the Swedish mental health system. How the system has broken down and can harm people was personally the most interesting part of the book for me. Lisbeth is caught in this system as a twenty-four year old adult. I work closely with the mental health system in the United States. The indigent, welfare system of mental health in our country often labels adolescents and children as mentally ill and it is a label that is extremely difficult to break away from.

The main character, Mikael Blomkvist wasn’t as interesting for me. He is an every man with a divorced wife and child he rarely sees. He is a kind man and I liked him but I laughed a little at all the women who want to have sex with him. Every woman he meets wants to jump into bed with him but I just found that amusing and it didn’t ruin the book for me.

I don’t want to give away the story but it starts out as a financial crime and the journalist who tries to uncover it. Halfway through the book it becomes a mystery about the wealthy Vanger family then the last third of the book deals with the corporate crime again. The missing girl mystery is the best part of the book and is well plotted. Mikael and Lisbeth don’t meet until late in the story. I found the parts of the book dealing with Lisbeth and her viewpoint more interesting and was glad when the two main characters finally start solving the mystery together.

This is a Swedish novel that has been translated to English. It is an interesting portrait of Sweden. Apparently the names of businesses,, publications, cities, etc..are real and European readers would be more familiar with them. I enjoy reading about other cultures and it was refreshing to be reading about Swedish main characters instead of Americans for a change. Larsson is methodical in details about the food, weather, and dwellings and it can be odd for an American reader.

Just a warning there is much violence towards women in this book and it can be disturbing to read. There is a scene with Lisbeth that I found particularly horrifying and her revenge though deserved is also uncomfortable to read.

I recommend this book and look forward to reading the other two novels that Larrson had completed before his death. It is sad that he was never able to write the ten books he had anticipated writing about Lisbeth and Mikael.

 I give this book ****4 stars! Happy Reading!


  1. I liked this book but was a little torn like you and the end bummed me out so much that I was in a funk for days. (not to deter people! the end is good just left me sad)

  2. Karen, Thanks for the comment and for reading Wicked readings!! I kind of liked the ending because it made me want to read the second book even more. I want to find out what happens with Lisbeth and Mikael! This book was interesting because I couldn't put it down but the writing was so uneven at times. i assume that occurred because it is translated from Swedish!

  3. Just one factual correction, Heidi: Stieg Larsson was 50 when he died.

    I adore all three books in the trilogy! Personally I enjoy Larsson's very dry, factual writing style. It is unique, and very apropos for a book that is about two non-emotional individuals (Blomkvist and Salander). The plotting is indeed complex, but again, I enjoyed that...in fact, I marvelled that Larsson's imagination is capable of holding as much detail about a fictitious world as people do about their real lives! Didn't seem uneven to me at all.

    He is not the style of author I could ever be, but I admire his work tremendously. And it's wonderful to see success happen to such deserving books...I'm just very sad he didn't live to see it.

  4. I too was torn on my opinion with this book. While I thought the writing itself was incredible, I was very disturbed by the violence towards women and also, like you mentioned, by Mikael's "ability" to get EVERY woman to want him. It felt at times like a twisted male fantasy and I know some male readers who view Lisbeth as more of a Suicide Girls character than the kick ass chick she should have been. Would love to read your review of the second book as I haven't decided whether to read it or not.

  5. I did not read this book however, with such a descriptive review I don't feel like I have to. Good review! Chrissy


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