El's Reviews > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
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's review
May 07, 2010

it was ok
bookshelves: 21st-centurylit, peer-pressure
Read from May 01 to 08, 2010

He slapped her hard. Salander opened her eyes wide, but before she could react, he grabbed her by the shoulder and threw her on to the bed. The violence caught her by surprise. When she tried to turn over, he pressed her down on the bed and straddled her.

That's just to give you a little taste of what one is dealing with by picking up this book. If you can handle that and the previous x amount of paragraphs and the following x amount of paragraphs, you're golden. If that sort of makes that thing in your throat rise up a little bit and make your mouth taste sour, you might reconsider reading this book.

Carry on.

I wasn't going to read this book, ever. But then I saw the theater up the street from me (a cool one that plays those indie and art films, and their popcorn is always sort of either stale or slightly burnt, and the employees all have an air of snootiness - it's one of my favorite places in town) is showing the foreign movie. My first thought was, "When did they make a movie of this book?" My second thought was, "Dammit. I sort of want to see that movie." My third thought was, "Sonsofbitches. I can't see it until I read it." (Yes, I'm hard on myself, thanks.) So last weekend when we went out of town I decided it was the best time to purchase it and read it. The mini-break was going to entail my boyfriend spending hours playing guitars with his brother and then later with his BFF, and his brother's fiance and his BFF's wife were all conveniently elsewhere for the most part, so I had the fantastic opportunity to tag along and not have to do a damn thing. I sat on the couch/futon/floor and read. I read a freaking lot. This was the book I had along to read.

It passed the time. It didn't bore me. It held my attention.

And... that's about it.

It didn't turn my world upside down, or even teeter it necessarily. This is what I like to refer to as a nice popcorn read. I didn't have to give it a lot of thought, the story sort of did the work for me, I was just an innocent and willing bystander. I actually got a little annoyed the few times when it felt like I was beginning to have to work. Like figuring out who the hell Larsson was talking about at any given moment - he was apparently one of those authors who liked to use a character's first name in one sentence and then refer to the same character by their last name in the next sentence. What's up with that? Make a freaking decision and stick with it. Eventually I stopped caring so much.

My biggest annoyance with the book (and likely to be the most offense to lovers of this book who stumble across my humble review here) was not the violence and the rape; it actually was Lisbeth Salander. The female protagonist. Okay, so she's cool. I get that. She's Hotty-McHotterson, all corporate and world-weary and a computer hacker to boot. She's pierced and inked, and for some reason this is such a source of fascination for Larsson (and apparently everyone who reads this book). Every time Salander comes into the story there is a mention about her piercings, her surly attitude, her tough clothes, her tattoos. At one point another character counts her tattoos. Six. Six. This apparently contributes to some point Larsson was trying to make that Salander is a social freak, but he's still clearly obsessed with the image of her. For the record, numerous piercings, surly attitudes, tough clothes and six tattoos sums up just about every female I know. It's not all that bizarre. This is, after all, the 21st century. Anyone who lived through the 80s/90s either embodies all of those things or at least doesn't bat an eyelash at those things in others. Maybe it's different in Sweden. Maybe they're just now getting the whole dyed-hair-pierced-faces-crazy-tattoos craze there. Wow. Way to go, Sweden. Maybe if you all hadn't spent the last 30 years listening to ABBA and Europe obsessively, you might actually not find kick-ass girls in boots all that magical.

All of these unfair generalizations aside, I can honestly say that I read this book and I'm not all that excited about it. I'm not dying to read the next one, but I'm sure I will eventually (probably if they make a movie of it too). I'm certainly not waiting with bated breath for the third book in the trilogy to come out. I guess I'm just not that fascinated by Salander in particular, so I don't really care what happens to her next. Maybe the movie will make me feel differently. We'll see.

ETA (01/14/12): I have since read The Girl Who Played with Fire which I enjoyed more than this first book, though my impression of Lisbeth hadn't changed that much. I have also seen the Hollywood version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which I liked more than the book because the performances were fantastic, Fincher is a wonderful director, and I felt like the characters could breathe which is something I felt they were unable to do in the book because they were so constricted and pigeon-holed.
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Reading Progress

05/07/2010 page 368
62.37% "Shut up, I want to see the movie." 2 comments
02/09/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-50 of 101) (101 new)

Mila I love your phrase "popcorn read".

message 2: by Jen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jen I was going to write a review, but you literally stole my thoughts and wrote yours. Amen--I completely agree with everything you said.

message 3: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Thank you both! (Sorry, Elizabeth, I must have missed your message before.)

Jen, I still sort of feel weird about the whole thing, like so many people have loved it so maybe I'm doing something wrong. But then I think about it again and decide that I was right the first time. I'm still not sure if I'll finish the trilogy. Are you going to continue or are you done with Larsson?

Mila I will probably read the second book but I'm not going to rush out and buy it.

message 5: by Jen (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jen I agree--I still don't understand the mass appeal of this book. Isn't there an inordinate amount of gratuitous, graphic perverseness?
To be honest, I even feel just like you do about reading the rest of the trilogy. I will probably end up doing it eventually, simply because my Dad owns the other two. And I'll probably end up seeing the movie out of curiosity. (I can't wait to see how Lisbeth will look and act.)

message 6: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Yeah, I think we're all on the same page. Like eventually we'll read the others, but no one's going to kill themselves to get to it. My TBR and Currently Reading shelves are long enough. I think Larsson will go way at the bottom of my list.

My mother did see the movie and said it was pretty good. She hasn't read the book though, so she couldn't compare them. My intention was to see the movie (as I said in my review), but the movie was taken out of rotation or whatever like the day after I finished the darn book. I'm still a little sour about that.

message 7: by Chloe (new)

Chloe Thurlow It seems to me the people who do not like this book simply have narrow horizons and have never gone beyond their own little world and minute imaginations.

message 8: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Well, that could be one way to look at it, Chloe. The other, of course, could be that the people who do not like this book may just have more discerning tastes than people who did like the book. Sensitive much?

You should really get to know people before you make snap judgments about the width of their horizons, their worlds, or their imaginations. Nothing like a little case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Meghan Maybe if you all hadn't spent the last 30 years listening to ABBA and Europe obsessively, you might actually not find kick-ass girls in boots all that magical.

OLO! You almost made me pee my pants. You are so not going to enjoy the other two books if you don't like Lisbeth. (To me) this was the best one (because there was so little of her).

message 10: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Thanks for the head's up on that, Meghan. I still consider reading the second and third books, but I just wind up putting them down again when I see them. Maybe someday. :)

message 11: by Gator Girl (last edited Sep 23, 2011 03:35PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Gator Girl enjoyed your review El and agree. thought the comment made by Chloe was quite funny...minute imaginations? what does that mean? in what way should I have been using my imagination? maybe I should have imagined that I enjoyed the book.

message 12: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Thank you for your review and sparing me from reading this book! I do not like to read disturbing, icky books. Thanks again!

message 13: by Elin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elin Swede here, and no we don't listen to Abba any longer and no, dyed hair and piercings aren't new to us. I don't really get why this would make Salander less likable.
What I like about her character is that she is very non-female, has everything against her and is still so strong. And no, it's not because all females in Sweden are weak barbies, it's because it's refreshing to read something with not so stereotype characters. Usually women are portraited as very feminine (especially by all American movies), if they are gonna be the protagonist or awesome. She has not a bit feminine, and is still the biggest hero of the series.

Get it now?

message 14: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El I actually got it when I read the book, but that doesn't change my opinion of it. Everything you say is correct - Lisbeth is very non-female, she does have everything against her, and she is still so strong.

But she's just not that original.

The whole ass-kicking, tough-girl left of center just isn't that unique anymore, it's what everyone wants to be, it's what everyone wants to portray. I don't particularly care in the real world, by the way. But as a character? I don't need to be reminded on every page just how much a bad ass Lisbeth was. I don't need that much constant reiteration of character details no matter who the character is, but it was even more annoying when it came to Lisbeth because it just wasn't necessary. And the more I was hit over the head with the same details, the less impressed I was. It's fine that Lisbeth is tough. I'm okay with that. But it was repetitive and tedious to have to be reminded over and over again.

It also implies that a woman can't be a bad ass unless they're pierced, inked, or rides a motorcycle, which is certainly not true.

message 15: by Elin (new) - rated it 4 stars

Elin Okay, I guess I find it more original than you then. Usually female heroes are very sexualized and barbie-looking, that's what I think is kind off fresh with this book.
And I don't think it implies that she must look that way to be bad ass, rather the opposite. There is a stereotype with heroines always having big boobs and looking sexy in a traditional Hollywood way which she doesn't fit in. I think that's more liberal.

Can you recommend something with this type of character in main stream movies or books? I would like to read/see them. :)

message 16: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Off the top of my head, and the first thing to come to mind, is the movie Hard Candy with Ellen Page. There's also Foxfire with Angelina Jolie which was based on Joyce Carol Oates' book of the same name. Jolie was also in Hackers, where she played a rather tough computer hacker. Again, that's just a few off the top of my head.

Grailwolf Something to bear in mind: the author died in 2004, and at that time a woman with several prominent tattoos and piercings might have been somewhat more unusual than it is today. The story opens in 2010 (the mystery began in 1966 and the first pages detail the arrival of the 44th flower) but the manuscripts were turned in just before Larsson's death, so the first book probably was completed no later than 2003.

Just to give some perspective.

message 18: by El (last edited Jan 19, 2012 05:40AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

El 2003/2004 really was not that long ago, and women with tattoos and piercings were just as common then as it is today - again, at least in American society. This just isn't a new trend here; it's been going on for several decades.

But that's not really the point - even if it's a brand-spanking new and shiny thing that Sweden has going on today (or when Larsson wrote the books), my point is there's still no reason to give the same descriptions every time Lisbeth walks on the page. It distracts from the story, actually. I had similar complaints with The Girl Who Played with Fire as well - Larsson would get so fixated on a concept and his characters would never let things go. In the second book, some characters are obsessed with Mimmie Wu being a lesbian, and it comes up every time Mimmie Wu is discussed. It's repetitive and only seems to serve as a way to fill space.

A good writer only needs to show his readers Salander's scowl once or twice; not every time she makes an appearance.

Hi I'm Bob I don't understand the crusade against books that were written for the purpose of entertainment. Seems to me that some people, particularly on this website, take every opportunity to tout the depth of their intellect. That said, it's understandable that if you don't like Lisbeth you're not likely to care for this trilogy much. Blomkvist is a pretty bland character and Lisbeth is all that makes it interesting. I literally found myself flipping through the pages, scanning for Salander's name to find out how long I had to wait to be relieved of our uninteresting, indistinct male protagonist. I guess I can see why you're frustrated with all the focus on Lisbeth's appearance, but I interpreted it as the perspective of people we were supposed to dislike in the first place.

message 20: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El I'm not going to speak for anyone else, but I'm not making any sort of crusade against this book or any other that is written for entertainment value (aren't they all?). I didn't even say I disliked the book. 2 stars on GR means "it's ok" which is exactly what I thought it was. For all the hoopla I expected it to wow me a lot more, but it didn't. Has nothing to do with my level or degree of intellect as opposed to anyone else's.

I do find it interesting that people feel the need to question my review. I'm not going to the reviews of those that loved this book and telling them they are wrong. To each their own. I'm glad this book worked for you and many other people. Who cares if it didn't excite me?

Hi I'm Bob You seem a little defensive. This is what happens when you post your opinions online: people have opinions about them. What you think of the book is pretty inconsequential to me. My responses to your critiques of the actual content of the book teetered between empathetic and apathetic.

The only thing I criticized was this attitude that's so pervasive among readers, which says "Well it's an entertaining book but it's less than fifty years old and it didn't cure cancer, so I'm not impressed." When I detect this tone in the writing I start involuntarily reading the review in the voice of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I didn't mean to single you out, and for that I apologize. I'm new to this site and my response was really the culmination of annoyance with the overall snooty elitism of book reviewers. Yours wasn't even a good example of it.

message 22: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El I'm wrote: "Seems to me that some people, particularly on this website, take every opportunity to tout the depth of their intellect."

I wouldn't say "defensive" necessarily, but snide comments about ones intellect causes one to become a little rankled. Particularly by someone who claims not to care about ones opinion on something.

I'm wrote: "This is what happens when you post your opinions online: people have opinions about them."

That works both ways. You're writing comments on my review, so I will respond.

Welcome to Goodreads, by the way. If you're annoyed by "snooty elitism", you might not be that happy on this site. It's a place for people to post their opinions (as you pointed out) which may differ from your own. I'm sorry if I jumped the gun with you (it's hard to detect tone on the Interwebz), but you'll see over time here that some people come around just to stir up drama; they like to pop on, leave a comment about how wrong someone is, but then get all nasty when the original reviewer comments in return. "Whoa, man, it's a free country, I can say whatever I want."

Yeah, it works both way.

I'm wrote: "The only thing I criticized was this attitude that's so pervasive among readers, which says "Well it's an entertaining book but it's less than fifty years old and it didn't cure cancer, so I'm not impressed.""

Wait, this book didn't cure cancer? Damn. Maybe I should knock off another star.

message 23: by Alex (last edited Jan 26, 2012 10:36AM) (new)

Alex Elin wrote: "There is a stereotype with heroines always having big boobs and looking sexy in a traditional Hollywood way which she doesn't fit in."

Spoiler alert, I guess: doesn't she get a boob job in the second book? (I haven't read any of these because I only read ancient books that cure cancer, but I swear I heard that somewhere.)

Like you say, El, all books are more or less written to entertain - except fucking Umberto Eco's, obviously - but then, all food is to eat; there's still a difference between steak and popcorn. Bullshit book is bullshit, and I've read some old-ass books that were also bullshit. It is valid to say, "This book isn't very good."

message 24: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El There is a difference between steak and popcorn, this is true. (Of course when it comes to real food I prefer popcorn over steak, but no need to overcomplicate things here since we're talking books.)

Your love for Eco is overwhelming at times, Alex.

Don't get me started on the boob job!

message 25: by Cindy (last edited Jan 26, 2012 01:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Cindy Alex wrote: "It is valid to say, "This book isn't very good." "

Yup, and not all books "written to entertain" (wtf does that even mean?) are going to entertain everyone. If we all had the same taste in books, there wouldn't be the variety we have now. If popularity on GR is anything to go by, it would be a Sparkly Vampire Wizard who Runs Around Rescuing Women With Tattoos While Fighting Racism. puke.

message 26: by Alex (new)

Alex How the hell did you know the working title of my novel? I haven't even sent that to my agent yet!

Cindy Good stalkers do their due diligence.

message 28: by Hi I'm Bob (last edited Jan 26, 2012 04:15PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Hi I'm Bob Edit: Forget this post. A stupid argument is not a good reason to be rude. Take care guys.

Cindy Actually, no, I didn't know what you meant, and I still don't. I might find the subtleties of language in Virginia Woolf entertaining, or the unending layers of references in James Joyce entertaining, but can't find much entertainment in Dan Brown, eg. Likewise another reader might find entertainment in a new-ish treatment of vampirism, but have no enjoyment in reading books with words they don't know.

My point is-- all books are written for some form of entertainment, with different types of entertainment appealing to different readers.

I can't decide if it's rude or just funny to get all huffy with someone when their taste in entertainment is different than your own.

Hi I'm Bob You've got a point. I concede. I can be too reactive at times.

Marieke Yeah, imma get huffy with El because I really like popcorn and sometimes I like popcorn books and judging popcorn books against other popcorn books, I liked this one, unlike ever trying to read something like Twilight, which is unrate-able/can't even get a star. But steak this book is not. And therefore I won't rate it against other steak-y books.

BUT her review made me giggle because I could see what annoyed her about it. It just didn't annoy me. Granted, I listened to the audio version which is prolly a totally different experience. For instance, listening to the long lists of Ikea furniture made me laugh out loud. Maybe that's not the effect Larsson was looking for, but I enjoyed it.

Should I carry on talking about El in the third person? It's not like we are on her page or anything.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Yeah, I liked this "popcorn" book as popcorn; wasn't judging it as steak.

Cindy It might be microwave popcorn, but it's not kettle corn!

Also: I can't help now but think about in what time period would I be considered middle aged? Maybe the late 19th century?

Chinook I read the trilogy and yep, I still have cancer.

On a less humorous note, I didn't like Lisbeth either. I didn't find her to be a strong female role model. I think that her choices are often not the strongest - especially not going to the authorities to tell her story. I can understand why she wouldn't want to, but no one wants to be subjected to the shit you get for reporting rape. That would have been a sign of strength, IMO. I'm less impressed with her violence than I can see I'm supposed to be, and that distracted from the plot.

And yeah, that boob job. And the sleeping with a minor. And the way she goes all crazy when dude doesn't love her back. IMO she represents a lot of stereotypes about women that I don't like.

Also, I totally see El's comment about the repetition. It was annoying, just like the obsession with tiny details about computer products, or the food they ate, or what she bought from Ikea was annoying.

I read it, I found it enjoyable, and it's nowhere near as shit as Dan Brown. But it's not good. It's not a book that changes your life or stays with you. It is a great book for opening up discussion though.

Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I passed middle-aged in the 18th century.

message 36: by Marieke (last edited Jan 26, 2012 04:48PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Marieke well...hrmmm...i picked up pretty quickly on her autism spectrum "symptoms" which later in the trilogy is revealed to be the case, and in that sense, i really liked her because i found the way she related to people to be quite authentic, even the violent behavior. i didn't see her as a complete caricature (maybe a little over the top, i'll concede that), unlike how a similar-type character was portrayed in a certain Atwood book, which really pissed me off (see my review of Oryx and Crake.)

Cindy I agree about Lizbeth, Marieke -- for me, she was the most interesting thing about the book.

What I couldn't get into was Larsson's endless telling me stuff instead of showing it to me. The pacing was beyond clunky, especially switching between the Millenium magazine conspiracy and the mystery on Hedeby Island. I thought it was painfully obvious that Larsson was a journalist, not a novelist.

Marieke i'm so glad i listened to the audio version. i think Mr. Simon Vance may have made all the difference (for me).

Chinook Interesting Marieke. I hadn't thought about the autism angle. It just annoyed me intensely to have people use her violent revenge as something that makes her a role model, particularly a feminist one.

This is amusing:


Marieke Ha! I just laughed out loud!

Marieke I keep scrolling down and snickering. Gary Oldman is totally a bad ass in glasses. Honestly, I don't even know what that means, but it is making me laugh. And Alex needs to appear and analyze dat ass.

Hi I'm Bob Marieke wrote: "i picked up pretty quickly on her autism spectrum "symptoms" which later in the trilogy is revealed to be the case"

Was it revealed? I can't remember any diagnosis of her ever being agreed upon, which seems all the less likely when you take into account the fact that she refused to speak to almost any professional. (view spoiler)

message 43: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El I'm not yet convinced on the Asperger's but I haven't read the third book yet. I thought it came up a couple times in the second book and was sort of written off, but maybe I'm not remembering correctly. If anything I had thought maybe PTSD, but at this point I'm not sure if it matters. It seems everyone wants to put some sort of label on her, or anyone who doesn't fit the social norm. But we'll see how I feel after reading the third book.

Marieke Rather than PTSD, I was thinking Reactive Attachment Disorder. I would have to reread the entire series to point out all the things that said RAD or "autism spectrum disorder" to me, but suffice it to say that there was a lot there that reminded me an awful lot of my niece and nephew (both diagnosed with ASD), one of whom recovered from RAD and has since been diagnosed with aspberger's. but diagnoses like that are never perfect and often do not manifest the same in everyone who have the same diagnosis. Anyway, lisbeth's precise diagnosis wasn't that important to me in finding her a believeable character; I just thought her behaviors and motivations fit well within these developmental and social disorders...the single-mindedness, the B&W view of justice/fairness, the refusal to cooperate in school, etc.

Marieke Even if I sound like I'm coming out of left field with that psychobabble that may actually be totally wrong, I think the other aspect about the book that I enjoyed, and that is related to her "disorder(s)," is the question of her agency and what happens when a person's right to make his/her own decisions is removed. In the US, this right to autonomy is preserved except in the most extreme instances, but apparently in Sweden, it is much easier to declare someone incompetent and in need of a guardian. It was interesting to me to watch her navigate this problem.

message 46: by Alex (last edited Jan 26, 2012 09:39PM) (new)

Alex Chinook wrote: "I read the trilogy and yep, I still have cancer. "

Sorry, I vaguely caught the rest of this conversation but I was mostly caught up with this fucking sentence, which is funny. Chinook, you are the wind beneath my wings. And I mean that, by which I mean I'm making fart noises in my armpit, literally, at this moment. Wait, now it's turned into beatboxing. Fartboxing! That's what I'm doing.

I may have had a beer or six.

message 47: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El All very valid points, Marieke. Unfortunately the first book didn't engage me enough to think much on those topics, or when I did it was overshadowed by about six other annoying things Larsson wrote. Again, I'm not saying I hate these stories - I just don't think they're as good as everyone else seems to.

Oh, hey, Alex. You've fartboxed on my review. I feel like I've arrived or something.

Marieke El, I just don't want you to lose any respect for me--assuming you had some in the first place HAHA!

I feel like fartboxing is what unicorns must do to duel. Their horns having the sole purpose of opening doors, afterall.

message 49: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El No no! No respect lost. If anyone is at risk of having respect lost, it's probably me since I don't love these books the way everyone else does, so I probably seem like a heartless wench.

And, okay, I am. A little bit.

Marieke Haha! This is my situation with Oryx and Crake. :/

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