Friday 25 November 2011

Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

I feel like I'm the last person in the world to have read this book.

I put it off for a long time because (I'm embarrassed to admit) of the size. I love big books, don't get me wrong, but I love new books more, and tend to prefer to speed through three shorter ones in the time it takes to get through one massive tome. You might say I'm a tad impatient. But the other week, when I was trying to decide what to read, my fiance - who reads about four books per year and has managed to read this one - insisted I pick up The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, coz he liked it so much. So I relented. I was curious to know what all the fuss was about.

I'd heard from the fiance, and others, that the first quarter is pretty slow going. And it really was. There were a few times when my eyes glazed over from boredom. While it laid the groundwork for the whole book (and, I'm assuming, the whole series), not a lot happens in the way of plot. Sure, we meet the main characters, but it takes an incredibly long time for them to finally meet each other and get things going. Even seemingly minor characters are given a detailed history, which I could appreciate on one level but also found quite tiresome on another, as I waited for the main story to start rolling. When it finally does, it's definitely a page-turner. It's an awesome mystery, with a fantastic cast of suspects and a fascinating set of clues.

But what really kept me turning the page was the chemistry between the two protagonists, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. As I mentioned, it takes awhile for them to hook up, but it's worth the wait. They work amazingly together, and I have to admit, though it made me impatient, the slow build to their meeting lays a strong foundation for the characters, both individually and as a team. I really liked Blomkvist, but like so many others it was Lisbeth Salander who really stole the show for me. She's definitely a strange and unique character, but she's super strong, got a lot of 'tude and can do some pretty clever things with a tattoo needle (this is significant in a spoilery way).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo doesn't shy away from violence, and though I was prepared for some brutal scenes, they still managed to shock me. Certain parts are incredibly uncomfortable to read - as they should be - and while initially I thought it was unnecessarily graphic, these details did make events that unfolded later (and the reader's understanding of certain characters) all the more powerful. It is the kind of book that stays on your mind even when you're not reading it, with the kind of characters you champion forever.

Rating: 4/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • I loved discovering what really happened to Harriet. I suspected just about every character of murdering her at some point, and it's to Larsson's credit that both twists - who was responsible for Harriet's disappearance, and what actually happened to her - came as surprises to me. While both things did cross my mind, there were so many other possibilities that I wasn't really expecting them. I love a good twist!
  • Maybe I'm dense, but I didn't really get what Salander was doing with the bank accounts at the end - or maybe I should say, I didn't get why she was doing it. I felt that wasn't really explained properly. Perhaps it's covered in the next book?
Eye Candy
I'd seen the trailer for the upcoming English language adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo a few times before reading it, so I pretty much had the entire cast stuck in my head while reading the book.

Fine Print
Genre: Crime

Published: 2008

Get It: Better World Books


  1. first quarter? Ugh, more like first three quarters and final 60 pages as well! I think I'm one of the few people out there who really disliked this book! I have to admit though, it works really well as a movie, and I'm looking forward to the English version (the original was great also).

  2. I though the Swedish movie of this book was really quite good. I'm not sure the English language one will be able to compare. I agree that the beginning of the book was difficult to get through, but when I watched the Swedish movie, you lost out on a lot of the back story, and it was actually useful to have so you knew what was going on. I wonder if the movie coming out will be similar.

  3. I'm embarrassed to admit that, but I haven't read this book yet. Nor did I see the movie. I don't know, maybe - just like you - the size of the book puts me off. It's kind of like the thing I have now about reading the new Murakami's book - I want to read it soo bad, but it's just too big of a commitment at the moment :P I am going to read it one day, tho, for sure!
    I remember seeing "The Dragon with a Girl's Tattoo" in my local grocery store recently and I was extremely amused by the cover :P Love parodies! I'll definitely read both books! LMAO!


  4. bahaha yes this book is SO slow in the beginning, but it is totally worth it cause it does sent up a giant format for the whole story. Book two is way more action packed and you will understand the bank accounts then. Like you I enjoyed the mystery of Harriet's and suspected everyone at one point as well. It was brilliantly written. I am waiting to read the third book cause it is only in hardcover and I have the other two books in paperback...

  5. Now you've made me the last person who hasn't read this book. But (because of the size) I think I'd rather just watch the movie and be done with it. LOL

  6. You're not the last person in the world to read this, I am and I actually got all three as a birthday present back in March :/

    I just skimmed this review but I will come back to it once I've read the book.

  7. Haha, I felt exactly the opposite to you - I didn't feel any chemistry between the two of them at all. For me it was almost anti-Chemistry!

    I've been told by numerous people that the second two books are much better. I mean, I really wanted to know what had happened to Harriet and I thought it was very clever but I just found it so slow.

    The film isn't bad but I don't really understand why they felt the need to make an English version as well.

  8. Yes, the first 100-150 pgs are incredibly slow and IMO not really integral to the overall mystery. I debated on whether or not to drop the books but a friend of mine who read it before me to keep going and I'm glad that I did. I loved Lisbeth and if it wasn't for her, I would've skipped the books altogether. To answer your question about the bank accounts, yes it becomes clearer in the second book (which was my favorite of all the three).

  9. You weren't the only one - I've yet to read it too! I just haven't been able to muster the enthusiasm just yet, but I definitely want to read it before the film comes out! :)

  10. And I thought I was the last person on the planet to read this book. lol I feel the same way you did - I kept thinking about that book long after I'd put it down.

  11. I've been checking out this book since reading your review here. 460+ pages doesn't seem so big though, or am I mistaken?

  12. I loved this whole trilogy...though the first book was the best. I've also seen all three of the Swedish movies...can't wait to see the American version!

  13. So glad you liked it! Gives me a reason to start reading it soon :)

  14. Hello! I stumbled upon your blog while looking for The Girl Who Played With Fire. Took me almost seven months to finish the Girl with dragon tattoo. Haha! And no, I'm not a slow reader. I'm just busy and it took all my discipline in my body to finish this one. I mean, it was really long. Actually, I haven't read the two remaining books. Well, I'm not busy now. Will read it soon. :)

  15. I really liked this book... and the next two... and the (Swedish) films. Your review is great once again... Have you read the other books yet? Have you found out about the bank accounts? (I think it's in the next one)... I wondered about it as well at the time I read it!

    Happy reading and blogging!

    1. I read the second but am yet to read the third. I did enjoy them but didn't love them. I will get to it eventually! I haven't seen the Swedish films yet but I want to.