El's Reviews > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
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Jan 14, 12

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

Comments (showing 51-97 of 97) (97 new)

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message 51: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Oh yeah, I lost respect for you on that one. :)


Marieke LMPO!


Stephanie Weeks your review is hilarious & you didn't seem overly pleased with the book, but i'm still excited to read it:)


message 54: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Thanks, Stephanie! Believe me, I don't try to convince anyone to not read it - that's just not my style. It didn't work for me 100%, but I hope you enjoy it.


message 55: by Tiberius (new)

Tiberius Bones I haven't read the book... started it... lost copy... didn't care enough to buy another... ::cringes and waits for insult:: Anyway, your review is awesome. I want to finish this series, but this thread has distracted me from reading. The whole thing is hilarious. Starting with Chloe and the a rousing middle with Bob. The ending was the best, a very clean finish with an introduction to fartboxing. Thank you.


message 56: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Hey, Tiberius, thanks for dropping a comment. I'm also going to finish the series, but the books just aren't lighting a fire under my ass the way I expected them to. I made it through the second book not too long ago, and strangely enjoyed it more than the first; but I haven't made it to the third book, and I'm just not really jonesing for it. If it falls in my lap I'll read it, but I have plenty of other things that I actually want to read that will be priority.

And, yes, fartboxing really does make everything better. There needs to be more of it in the world.


message 57: by Kristine (new)

Kristine I have a question I wonder if you could help me with. I watched the Hollywood version of TGWTDT and didn't read the book, by your review (and others) I am iffy weather or not I want to read it... but I am curious as to what happens next and don't want to wait for the next movie.. so do you think I could skip the first book and read the 2nd one? Or do you think the first should be read first? I've never skipped books in a series before..but I kinda want to with this


message 58: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Oh, wow, Kristine, I'm apparently a big ass. I did not get a notification that you had left me a comment here... back in freaking April. I apologize. I did not mean to ignore you.

Here's hoping you get notification of my belated response:

Okay, so you saw the movie of the first book, but haven't read it, right? You could probably jump into reading the second book then, because you have an idea what's going on after having seen the movie. I often wonder if seeing the first movie without reading the first book makes the viewing different, but I would say if you didn't have difficulty following what was happening in the movie, you should be fine skipping the first book and jumping to the second.

That being said, personally my head would explode if I tried to do something like that. :)

Again, sorry for the really late response.


Christine Palau With this review and the Eggers issue, you are my new bff.;)


message 60: by Kristine (new)

Kristine Thanks for writing back! It's all good! You aren't an ass! Lol! I actually just went ahead and read The Girl Who Played with Fire and now I'm halfway thru The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest. Once I'm finished that I may read The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo eventually, but I won't be in such a hurry since I'll have read the last 2. This was my first time skipping a book in a series, but It didn't really seem to affect my understanding.


message 61: by John (new) - rated it 3 stars

John Damn, that was long. Consider the idea that a media critisism piece needn't be autobiographical. I really don't give a shit about your boyfriend or even your BFF.


Chinook John doesn't care about your way of reviewing, but thinks you might care about his way of critiquing your review. That's cute.


message 63: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El John wrote: "Damn, that was long. Consider the idea that a media critisism piece needn't be autobiographical. I really don't give a shit about your boyfriend or even your BFF."

Noted.

Consider the idea that the book didn't interest me enough to write about much more than the circumstances under which I read it. But besides that I will now totally change the way I write my reviews. You have helped me see the light, John! You're incredible, please be my friend!

Troll elsewhere.


message 64: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt Nicholls I can't help but think that Larsson tried very hard to make Salander seem like a tough female protagonist and then thought "now lets get this strong independent female raped!" he even went one further and decided that after she gets raped, she will voluntarily go to her abuser's house, and offer herself up for further rape! Just for recording purposes and so she could rape him back... I... It... I just wasn't expecting the story to take such a strange turn. It's as though these pages floated out of Brett Easton Ellis's study and slipped their way into Larsson's manuscript purely by chance!


message 65: by Matt (new) - rated it 1 star

Matt Nicholls Oh and I forgot to say that I agree with you! That was meant to be the point of my comment! (the rape bit upsets me and I went a little overboard!)


message 66: by Sina (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sina I totally agree with your review. I was really annoyed by Lisbeth Salander, too. You're right that she is not really that original as a character and also that Larsson tries to hard with describing her clothes everytime she appears and so on. Additionally, I didn't like the ending when it is revealed that she has feelings for Mikael (just like any other female in the book). I would have believed her awesomeness and independence more, if she wasn't that great with hacking, motorbikes, weapons, money transfers etc., but if she, instead, was the only woman who kept her cool about Mikael. I thought it was a very cheap way of showing that she has a weak, vulnerable side, too.


message 68: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Catherine wrote: "Fo"

What?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads I was wondering what a model from a past season of America's Next Top Model had to do with it.


message 70: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Susanna wrote: "I was wondering what a model from a past season of America's Next Top Model had to do with it."

Snort! Oh, Fo, where are you now? Well, according to Wikipedia: Fo Porter is currently signed with Nous Model Management in Los Angeles.[23] She has modeled for H&M, Revolve Clothing[24] and Nylon Magazine[25] She also has booked campaigns with Reebok, Nike, Abercrombie & Fitch, Target and Payless.[26]


In the process of finding that, I also found this about Jael. Huh.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads The story about Jael really saddens me.

Fo only posed for what may have been the worst picture ever taken for ANTM. I still laugh just thinking about it.


message 72: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Good call, she had some strange ones. She made it pretty far though.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Yeah, she made the foreign trip.


Seán 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.

You make some valid points in your review. I liked the book more than you and found Lisbeth an interesting heroine. I agree she isn't very original in today's society but the "badass girl" trope is still often used with a very feminine and confident woman; not an asocial, possibly autistic one. But your opinions are your opinions and I think the points you made are valid.

However, I think you're unfairly criticising the author in the above comments in italics. Pierced, tattooed people are not rare in Sweden - it is a country with a fairly prominent heavy metal scene. However, people such as Blomkvist, Armansky and the Vangers are people over 40 from upper-class backgrounds so the sight of a surly, pierced and tattooed woman would be a little outside of their comfort range and not as familiar to them as they would be to you.


message 75: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Hi Seán. Thanks for your thoughts, though I'm not sure how by throwing out the possibility that something is new or uncommon in a country is being unfair to the author. If anything I was giving him a potential out as an explanation why he puts so much emphasis on it in his book(s). I appreciate your thoughts, but am still not convinced that the author didn't find her a bit of a freak himself - whether negatively or positively, he was obsessed with her freakiness.


Chinook I really hated lisbeth and hate her more as time goes by. Empowering role model? She raped a man. Not ok.


message 77: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Chinook wrote: "I really hated lisbeth and hate her more as time goes by. Empowering role model? She raped a man. Not ok."

Agreed, Chinook.


Leajk Liked your review, but: "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."

Way to go judging an entire country based on one 40 year old writer...

"For the record, numerous piercings, surly attitudes, tough clothes and six tattoos sums up just about every female I know."

So you probably didn't have the same type of social circle as Larsson, I do agree that he overemphasises her looks, mannerisms etc though.

"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."

Er, yeah I would'nt believe that to be true even in the US. Surely it differs quite a lot between different states say Utha or California, or between urban and rural settings. In Stockholm (the capital) Lisbet wouldn't really stand out all that much.


message 79: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Thanks for your thoughts, Leajk. I was on vacation which is why I didn't respond sooner, and this may not make any difference at this point, but jeez, it's just a review. It's funny. No reason to take it so seriously.

I stand by my feelings about the book, and I maintain that Larsson was obsessed with Lisbeth to a detrimental extent.


Leajk Yes I got that it's a review, and as I said I liked it as such and agree that Larsson seems to have an obsession with Lisbeth.

To be honest I'd kind of forgotten about this and when I look at my comment now I feel that it's mostly me showing my prejudice against Americans being completly ignorant about what's going on outside their part of the world, which is very often quite unfair. You probably already knew that Sweden is one of the richest countries of the world with the same type of consumption focused on new trends and fads, such as tatooing and piercing, as the rest of the Western world. Perhaps you even knew that Sweden had gay marriage way before any American state, or that it's one of the countries where according to many surveys women have the most priviliged situation, or that there's a feministic party. Obviously you were exagerrating the stereotypical picture of Sweden being obsessed with ABBA and joking that it's some kind of back water compared to the US, since all Americans already knows this not to be the case.

I blame my initial reaction on the fact that satire is a tricky art form, especially when the audience don't know you. Hopefully I'll get it next time!


message 81: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El No problem, Leajk. I can be really snarky, and that often comes through with my reviews of things I didn't care much for. I certainly am aware of Sweden's standing, and I'm certainly not ignorant about what's going on in the rest of the world.


message 82: by Trick (new)

Trick Barrett Just to point out, I don't really think that we're leaving something major out in the analysis of the image of Lisabeth Salander (tattoos, piercings, etc): this book was written in Sweden. I know, I know, that seems to be a very obvious point, but Sweden is a country where, culturally, piercings and tattoos are still professionally uncommon and seen as weird or perhaps even vulgar. I think that's the point that's trying to be made.

Also, just as a side note, I kind of would recommend this book to folks who feel a bit sick at Larsson's descriptions of sexual abuse (with an obvious exception being anyone who has actually experienced sexual abuse). I feel like Making the reader feel revolted and sick is one of the driving points of including those scenes, considering Larsson's background in feminism and women's rights.


Jessica I'm sorry, El, but I feel your focus upon the rape scene in your review provides a gross misrepresentation to readers. The book does not revolve about this scene, and as you will find out in the later books, it is an important element in the uncovering of Lisbeth's character (one that I identify with). I understand that the book is not for everybody, but surely one must see the horrific sexual violence presented as merely a cog in a big wheel - one that readers must brave to get to the grit of the story. I know of many a people like yourself who have magnified this scene in their reviews of the book (like it's the only scene that exists in the book), and I feel that the focus is unhealthy and a misgiving to potential readers.


message 84: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Jessica wrote: "I'm sorry, El, but I feel your focus upon the rape scene in your review provides a gross misrepresentation to readers. The book does not revolve about this scene, and as you will find out in the la..."

Hi, Jessica. Actually, the rape scene was not the focus of my review. I put that at the top merely for those who are uncertain if this is a book for them or not - some are incredibly sensitive to violence in literature, and some are especially sensitive to rape scenes. I chose a passage that isn't particularly bad, but for some readers it might be too much - in which case they can decide very quickly that this is not a book for them. I'm not going out of my way to dissuade readers, but I don't want anyoone going into it blindly and being traumatized, for lack of a better word.

As I said in my review, it wasn't the rape or violence that even bothered me. And that wasn't even the majority of my review.


Chinook Lisbeth raping a man certainly was enlightening to her character. I'm not sure you needed to get to the other books to start thinking about what that means. Certainly put her "empowering" boob job into perspective.

I'm unimpressed with Larsson's feminism.


message 86: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Trick wrote: "Just to point out, I don't really think that we're leaving something major out in the analysis of the image of Lisabeth Salander (tattoos, piercings, etc): this book was written in Sweden. I know, ..."

Hi, Trick - I'm sorry, your comment must have come in during a time when GR wasn't giving notifications. I'll respond now anyway.

I don't know anything about Larsson's personal beliefs, though I see upon cursory glance he helped tain women in a liberationg group. That's fine.

My point is with the book itself - his portrayal of Lisbeth as a feminist is not my personal definition of feminism. That's all. There are plenty of feminists I have met that I don't necessarily agree with.


message 87: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Chinook wrote: "Lisbeth raping a man certainly was enlightening to her character. I'm not sure you needed to get to the other books to start thinking about what that means. Certainly put her "empowering" boob jo..."

I was thinking that too, but since I haven't read the third book yet, I held off just because there is some sort of insight into her character that I just haven't reached yet. I will say I don't remember it being in the second book.


Leajk Trick wrote: "Just to point out, I don't really think that we're leaving something major out in the analysis of the image of Lisabeth Salander (tattoos, piercings, etc): this book was written in Sweden. I know, ..."

Hm, have you lived in Sweden? Would be interested in seeing what you're basing your assumption that tatoos are uncommon. Or perhaps I'm not getting what 'professionally uncommon' means, if you mean that they're uncommon among buisness CEOs, you're probably right, if you mean that they're uncommon among creative/PR/AD-people, you're probably wrong.


message 89: by Melanie (new) - added it

Melanie - iHeartFantasy The hollywood movie sucks but I totally love the films made in Sweden.


message 90: by Somerandom (new)

Somerandom Nice review. I think Larson was obsessed with Lisbeth because of his guilt towards her. This book started because he witnessed and failed to save a woman being raped, Lisbeth being based on the woman he failed to protect. Also because he's a journalist, not an author. Which I think shows in his repetitive tedious details. I think this trilogy is his way of apologizing to the woman he failed and thus he mifht have been especially eager to make Lisbwth strong and do right by her. Resulting in him obviously trying to hard. Not a big fan of the novels, just thought that the author's motivations helped me see it from a different perpective. Also although I can't deny the talent involved in the Hollywood version I prefer the Swedish films.


message 91: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Somerandom wrote: " I think this trilogy is his way of apologizing to the woman he failed and thus he mifht have been especially eager to make Lisbwth strong and do right by her."

That's a nice thought. It doesn't change my opinion on the book, but I appreciate that perspective. I still think he could have packed a greater punch if he had just been able to remove himself just a little bit. Or, again, if he hadn't tried quite so hard.


Somerandom wrote: "Also because he's a journalist, not an author. Which I think shows in his repetitive tedious details."

But this is where you lose me again. For these books, he has taken his journalist hat off and he's writing as an author. Journalists can be both and can do both well. Even journalists don't always write their articles in as minute detail (and repetitious detail) as Larsson did in this book.


Somerandom wrote: "Also although I can't deny the talent involved in the Hollywood version I prefer the Swedish films."

I still haven't read the third book (and so I haven't watched the third movie yet), but so far, I would agree with you on this. The Swedish films really are better.


message 92: by Somerandom (last edited May 07, 2013 07:28PM) (new)

Somerandom El wrote: "Somerandom wrote: " I think this trilogy is his way of apologizing to the woman he failed and thus he mifht have been especially eager to make Lisbwth strong and do right by her."

That's a nice th..."

I agree with you. He should have removed himself from the story and not tried so hard. It would have packed a better punch. But at least the guy was passionate, I suppose.
Perhaps. But Larson died before his books were published, so perhaps he didn't have a good editor or maybe he didn't have enough time to polish his novels. I'm not saying he's the greatest writer ever, but maybe these were first drafts. Maybe he needs to be cut a tiny bit of slack.


message 93: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Somerandom wrote: "Maybe he needs to be cut a tiny bit of slack."

I disagree, respectfully. I can have an opinion on the final product that I'm presented with. As a consumer, that's my right.

Though, again, my rating indicates "it was ok", not "did not like it". So it's more of a shrug than a hate.


Chinook Yeah, I think judging the final product is allowed. If there was actual evidence to suggest he intended to make major changes, or the individual books weren't finished, that's one thing. Though I'd still happily 2-star an unfinished draft, if that's how I felt about it.


message 95: by Somerandom (last edited May 10, 2013 04:41AM) (new)

Somerandom Oh I agree with your right to judge the product in front of you and if that's your rating, fair enough. I am a tiny bit curious what Larson would have sone with his book had he lived. Would he have improved his technique or not. Igguess I don't like the unfulfilled potential of the series. *shrugs* (excuse my errors please. My phone is being mean to me)


message 96: by Michael (new)

Michael Sterckx You need to research your knowledge of Swedish alternative culture, haven't you heard of their ongoing obsession with Death Metal? I'm sure the Swedish sub culture knows everything it needs to know about tattoos, pancake make up and music that would make a American Gen X kid's hair stand up on end.


message 97: by El (new) - rated it 2 stars

El Michael wrote: "You need to research your knowledge of Swedish alternative culture, haven't you heard of their ongoing obsession with Death Metal? I'm sure the Swedish sub culture knows everything it needs to kno..."

Haven't you heard of the figure of speech "tongue-in-cheek"?

Also, exactly. What you said helps prove my point that the author didn't need to reiterate all the same details about his protagonist page after page. So, thanks.


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