This opener is a classic, an interlude to an old man’s reminiscing of his youth. You’d think, that som“I’m ninety. Or ninety-three. One or the other.”
This opener is a classic, an interlude to an old man’s reminiscing of his youth. You’d think, that someone who can’t correctly remember his age, would at best, have blurred memories of his past. But Jacob Jankowski is made of sterner stuff. He may forget the name of the nurse in his old-age home, he may not quite remember his grandchildren or their children, but memories of his youth are as fresh as if they happened yesterday.
Jacob was studying to be a vet when an accident leaves him both orphaned and penniless. In a state of delirium, Jacob begins walking and keeps walking, away from the civilization into some unknown future. And that unknown future brings him to a train, that in its many carriages, carries the magic of an entirely different world, for on this train, travels a circus.
And the drama unravels. There are performers and the workmen, freaks and animals. All the typical circus things. There’s even a gorgeous, Marlena, who is the star performer of the show, who makes her performances come alive with the animals she works with. She’s married to the equestrian director August, the sometimes charming, sometimes abusive man. And of course, Jacob falls for this woman.
What makes this book superlative is that it isn’t just a romance, at least not just between Jacob and Marlena. It is a sketch of the human soul – of how human some animals can be and of how beastly some men.
Sara Gruen’s characters are all strong, heroes and villains alike. But its the side characters whose story adds depth to the emotions. Kinko and Camel, the sort of “roommates” of Jacob or Queenie and Bobo, the dog and the chimp who in their animal-ish sort of way make your heart swell. And of course, Rosie, the elephant. For me, she was the star of this book. Every time August lashed out her or Jacob fed her whiskey to soothe her wounds, were the times that had me welling up.
“With a secret like that, at some point the secret itself becomes irrelevant. The fact that you kept it does not.” And there is that secret, right towards the end, that the author throws at you. Of course, that’s not what you expected, but you hoped all along while reading the book, that something like that would end up happening.
In Sara Gruen’s own words,
“Life is the most spectacular show on earth” …and that is exactly what she shows you through this spectacular story about a circus.
Believe it or not, Sara Gruen had never actually been to a circus in her life, before she started writing this book! Surely, you wonder then, where did the inspiration to write this story come from? The author says it all started with an article in the Chicago Tribune in 2003 on Edward Kelty, a travelling circus photographer who travelled across the U.S. following circus trains during the 1920s and 30s. She was so fascinated with the premise and the photographs accompanying the article and those in two other books, that she dropped the idea of the novel she was actually writing, to start one on a circus instead.
Sara Gruen’s favorite character in her book was Rosie (just like mine!). She loved the elephant almost enough to belive that Rosie was real.
Sara Gruen could visualize strongly how her characters would look like and behave if they were real. When asked in an interview who she would like to see cast in the movie, she chose Scarlett Johansson as Marlena (eventually played by Reese Witherspoon), Jim Carrey as August (played by Christoph Waltz). Danny DeVito would have made a great Uncle Al, according to Sara Gruen, but the actor to finally bag that role was no one. This character was eliminated in the movie version.
The film adaptation hit the screens in 2011....more
Mikael Blomkvist is a respected journalist in the Swedish circles. But a case involving a businessman turns bitter, when Mikael is unable to defend hiMikael Blomkvist is a respected journalist in the Swedish circles. But a case involving a businessman turns bitter, when Mikael is unable to defend himself in court and prove the allegations he has penned in his article. With his career sliding down, Mikael has every intention of going into exile and that's when an intriguing opportunity turns up.
Henrik Vanger, an industrialist with a vast business empire hires Mikhael to look into the murder of his niece. The catch - the murder happened nearly forty years ago, and the body of the girl was never found.
Mikhael has to work through evidence, that has long been poured over upon by investigators and Henrik, but no satisfying conclusion has been derived from any investigations. The day Harriet Vanger vanished, was also a day of a family reunion and the scene of a terrible accident. With people who had been present that fateful day four decades ago, either being dead now or too young then to have committed a crime, Mikhael must work through a diminishing list of suspects with hardly any new leads to solve a mystery that has remained under wraps for long. And Mikhael must do all this within a year, for he has a deal with Henrik, where in return for services rendered, Henrik would give Mikhael ammunition to destroy Wennerstrom, the businessman because of whom Mikahel's reputation took a hit.
While chasing ghosts everywhere, the question is, who should Mikhael trust? What deeper horrors lurk beneath the disappearance of Harriet? And who will survive once the truth is out of the closet?
As much as the central hero of this book seems to be Mikhael, it is Lisbeth Salander, the tattooed, socially awkward, and brilliant researcher, who is central to the story. She may be small for her age, not exhibit emotions and have her own abuses to deal with, but she can kick ass (literally) when shove comes to push. She can get any information about any person, and chances are that she will get into her subject even deeper and compile a hundred more pages than was asked for. But Lisbeth has her own secrets that she wants to escape from and is known to be exploited at the hands of the very institution which should be safeguarding her. The blooming of the relationship between Mikhael and Lisbeth is almost a redemption in an otherwise hurtful life of Lisbeth's.
This book has all the suspense and intrigue that you expect a first-class thriller to have. The climax to the Harriet mystery is excellent, and I wish that this book had ended with that episode. Of course, then we wouldn't have had matter for the remainder of the series, and with this really being about the girl with the dragon tattoo, I imagine readers can expect more horrors from her past to be revealed in the next two books.
I've watched the Swedish version of the movie, and enjoyed it almost as much as the book. Don't know about the Daniel Craig-starred English version, but I expect it to be done nicely as well.
A recommended read for lovers of suspense. Beware of slightly vulgar scenes....more