Riku Sayuj's Reviews > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
1651956
's review
Feb 03, 14

bookshelves: genre-fiction, r-r-rs
Recommended to Riku by: Isaac Varghese, Vikram Johri
Read from February 18 to 22, 2012 — I own a copy


Larsson takes what seemed at the outset to be a juicy 'locked-island-mystery plot' and turns it first into an insightful family saga and then into a scathing political and social commentary that forces us to think about such a wide variety of themes and aspects that we normally refuse to accept as part of society. It takes an author like Larsson to shove it in our faces in all its stinking ugliness for us to stop turning the blind eye at these atrocities.

Do not mistake this for a mere fictional work with imagined crimes. It has firm foundations in reality. In my opinion, the whole plot is a thin wrap-sheet thrown around the brutal truths of real crimes. Larsson has extensive knowledge of the most heinous crimes and he has written extensively about them for his entire professional career. This expertise shows through in his description of such acts of unimaginable cruelty with an almost nonchalant objectivity, with a careless leaving out of the gory details and focus on the trivial aspects of the act that sends shivers down our spine.

Larsson uses his investigative style of presentation and his two main characters and an extremely dysfunctional family to work in an amazing variety of potent themes into his first book. I cannot wait to see what he’ll do in the second one. Some of the themes explored in detail are:

Online Privacy

This is not part of the plot but Larsson seems to be sending out a warning about how deadly information can be in the wrong hands and how easily accessible any private info about you stored in digital form is. You are exposed and absolutely naked to a determined digital assault and there is nothing you can do about it. Of course in the novel it is never misused but the threat is always hanging in the air - if an uneducated girl and her friends can get the most private information about the most protected individuals in the country, what kind of a world are we heading into? And is it really bad? Food for thought...

Feminism

No matter which way you look at it, this work will have to defined as one of the most wrathful outcries against society's attitude towards women. The entire story is about the enormous acts of cruelty committed against women and the absolute indifference to it by everyone who is supposed to care. It is also about the different responses that these women have in such an uncaring society. Which brings us to the most important theme of the book in my opinion:

Morality and Allocation of Blame

The book is truly about three paths that a victim can take after an abused childhood.

One of the characters suffers abuse and decides to become an abuser himself and embrace it as a fact of life

The second one suffers abuse and decides to run away from that life and live faraway and sheltered. No attempt is made to punish the abuser or to report it.

The third character too suffers abuse but decides to confront it and return it with a vengeance. No violence or abuse is tolerated and any reaction is justified for this character.

The fourth is the invisible character of what we expect a person to do in such a situation - report it, seek help from the authorities who are supposed to protect them. The society around and the grim reality that prompted the book gives the outcome to this course of action.

Now the key point to me was that Larsson does not condemn any of them - he makes different characters speak in defense for each of these responses and lets us wonder about which course can ever be called right. in the end he manages to condemn both the society as a whole as well as us, the individuals who allow the society to be so. A caricature of morality.

Law, Crime & BDSM

Larsson's extensive knowledge about the worst forms of crime and the procedure of law allows him to give a gruesome reality to what we usually consider to be just sadistic fiction. He convinces the reader that it is real and all around us if we only cared enough to look.

Nazi History, Military Training, Religious Extremism & Apologetics

These are also touched upon at various points in the books and provides a background, especially of Swedish Nazism, from which the excuses for all the real crimes in the books could spring from.

Journalistic (Professional) Ethics

This too is quite obviously one of the favorite topics for Larsson and it forms a strong undercurrent throughout the book and comes to a head with the firm conviction of the lead character that he is finally a corrupt journalist. He is reassured that he has done the right thing by choosing between being a professional and being a human being. But we as the readers, the character and the author, all know that this is not remotely convincing. Justice was meted out selectively and subjectively in the end and even though it feels right, that is only because of personal knowledge. Is that enough?

Financial & Economic Commentary, Industrial Espionage and Hacker-lore

Large parts of the book goes into great detail about industrial politics and machinations and is sometimes quite boring to be frank, but it adds credence to the plot and has to be borne out. The elaborate hacker methodology too is a drag at times but remains mostly interesting and strangely disturbing.

The financial interplay and the economic commentary sounds a bit forced but Larsson still manages to give out some forceful ideas such as:
“We’re experiencing the largest single drop in the history of the Swedish stock exchange—and you think that’s nonsense?”

“You have to distinguish between two things—the Swedish economy and the Swedish stock market. The Swedish economy is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in this country every day. There are telephones from Ericsson, cars from Volvo, chickens from Scan, and shipments from Kiruna to Skövde.

That’s the Swedish economy, and it’s just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago.” He paused for effect and took a sip of water.

“The Stock Exchange is something very different. There is no economy and no production of goods and services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn’t have a thing to do with reality or with the Swedish economy.”

“So you’re saying that it doesn’t matter if the Stock Exchange drops like a rock?”

“No, it doesn’t matter at all,” Blomkvist said in a voice so weary and resigned that he sounded like some sort of oracle.

His words would be quoted many times over the following year.

Family & Incest

What it means to be a family and the inevitable nature of family relationships too seem to haunt Larsson and he gives free reign to his fears and troubles about family life, incest, indifference and corporate life affecting personal relations. He also asks the question of whether we can ever truly judge a person based on corporate success without knowing his relationships with his family and his personal life.

There are probably other important ones that I have failed to mention but these were, in my opinion, the things that the book was meant to shine a torchlight on.

On The Characters

I found this in an interview with Larsson and it captures the enigma of the two amazing main characters:
“I considered Pippi Longstocking,” he said, referring to the most famous creation of the Swedish children’s author Astrid Lindgren, a girl so strong she could carry a horse. “What would she be like today? What would she be like as an adult? What would you call a person like that, a sociopath? Hyperactive? Wrong. She simply sees society in a different light. I’ll make her 25 years old and an outcast. She has no friends and is deficient in social skills. That was my original thought.” That thought evolved into Larsson’s formidable heroine, Lisbeth Salander.

But he felt Salander needed a counterweight if his story was to be a success. Once again he turned to one of Lindgren’s characters, this time to Kalle Blomkvist, boy detective. “Only now he’s 45 years old and a journalist [called Mikael Blomkvist]. An altruistic know-it-all who publishes a magazine called Millennium. The story will revolve around the people who work there.”



Personal Impressions

While I loved the book wholeheartedly, I still had a few unfavorable impressions:

Some of the side characters are a bit sketchy not fully realized. Especially some of the family members including Martin who did not get a gradual transition that a character like him deserved for maximum impact.

The stylistically simple nature of the chapters and the book structure too takes away from the sophistication of the detail and plot. A bit more variety in the technique than a simple shift-of-perspective would have been better and less obvious. Also the tension eases off at all the wrong moments, primarily because Larsson has given a portent of things to come later too easily for a whodunnit. The pace too is not consistent and we spend a lot of time seeing scenery and almost every chapter opens with making coffee or with long uneventful walks.

In the end, the reader does not get the pleasure of a proper whodunnit as there were no hidden clues spread across the book and in spite of homages throughout the book to masters of crime and mystery fiction, Larsson at some point decided to make his book not fit to the thrill of that genre and moved instead to far more sinister territories.

The last section of the book felt much like a filler and had way too much detail and predictable action and could just as well have been left to the reader's imagination. The long winding down has put me off from any tension that would have made me run for the second book immediately. Now that everything is calm and quiet in the Millennium world, I too can take an idyllic break from it all...

A good editor and more time to polish would have made this into a definite modern masterpiece, which I strongly suspect it to be already. But in spite of the flaws we still have an opus and some unforgettable characters that will stay with us for a long time to come.

One Final Note:

All the villains have a Windows PC and all the heroes have an Apple notebook. Splendid thing to use in a book about corporate morality among other things. I think this tipped the scales for the book to be a bestseller!
101 likes · likeflag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
sign in »

Reading Progress

02/18/2012 page 93
14.0% "Been a long time since I have read such a 'page-turner'. Simple, crisp language and a powerful narrative voice - this is not at all like the difficulty I always associate with anything that comes from Sweden. An almost Sherlockian heroine-sleuth is also emerging..." 2 comments
02/20/2012 page 296
46.0% "What terrifying detail and tension... Can't stop reading and cant dare to turn the page either!"

Comments (showing 1-39 of 39) (39 new)

dateDown_arrow    newest »

Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "Cool...do tell me what you think of the book, I never knew you read such a wide variety of books. :)"

One of my friends insisted I read this.. So had no real choice in the matter


Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "I see...my sister forces me to read romance novels sometimes! :) :P"

i do draw my lines at such extremes :) But this book is a joy to read man you might want to check it out


Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "I added it....but I have read mixed reviews about it...but then again this is a sweedish book....and I might just try it...but be careful...there are many acts of terror against women! :P"

after having just read Lolita, I think I'll be more immune to shock..


Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "Yikes...is it that bad?? I know Tolstoy can be a real butt sometimes."

'bad' is not the word i would use.. let us just say it is extreme.


Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "lol....

I guess so...

So, do write a good review on it...I am planning to read it, and if you recommend it, I will! :)"


will try to...


Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "lol"

The review is up. Your call now :) I would recommend the book. it is a great read.


message 7: by Rohini (last edited Feb 22, 2012 08:45PM) (new)

Rohini Only one word - WOW!


Riku Sayuj Rohini wrote: "Only one word - WOW!"

:) Thanks!


Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "Now.....this review is just WOW. You have a very sophisticated manner of reviewing books! :)"

Thank you so much! Glad that you enjoyed it. :)


message 10: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Nafiul wrote: "It was done with impressive detail as well! :D"

It is such a tragedy. Larsson could have been one of the literary heavyweights.


message 11: by Tanu (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tanu Das I had to break my oath of not spending too much time on GR just to read your review. It was totally worth it!


message 12: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Tanu wrote: "I had to break my oath of not spending too much time on GR just to read your review. It was totally worth it!"

Even during exam time, I would say you can classify GR time as productive time :)

Thanks for the comment!


message 13: by Rakhi (new)

Rakhi Dalal Good one Riku :) Those are some thought provoking questions you have raised!...Worth read.


message 14: by Mohit (new)

Mohit  Parikh And Apple is not evil?


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

Riku Sayuj Rakhi wrote: "Good one Riku :) Those are some thought provoking questions you have raised!...Worth read."

Thank Rakhi. But it is not I who raised them. :)


message 16: by Riku (last edited Feb 23, 2012 06:13PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Mohit wrote: "And Apple is not evil?"

Just an observation man - it is made very obvious in the book and I was taking a dig at that.

I am an unabashed fanboy too - so you can also consider it a self-dig if you want. This is how I would do too, my villains would never use a mac either :) So I found it very funny.


message 17: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Tremendous, thought-provoking, and fun to read. Your reviews are dazzling.

My wife loved the book. Your review is very motivating for me to finally get to it.


message 18: by Riku (last edited Feb 23, 2012 06:11PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Jim wrote: "Tremendous, thought-provoking, and fun to read. Your reviews are dazzling.

My wife loved the book. Your review is very motivating for me to finally get to it."


Thanks Jim! Do let me know what you thought of the book once you get around to reading it.


message 19: by Jim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jim Thanks Riku, and I definitely will do so.


nomad great review riku . i never read such in depth review.


message 21: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Srinivas wrote: "great review riku . i never read such in depth review."

Thank you Srinivas! You might enjoy the book more after an Agatha Christie mystery :)


message 22: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Moonbutterfly wrote: "This was a difficult book for me. A friend had to encourage me to read it. I agree that Larsson spends too much time on details that don't matter, especially at the beginning. It does amaze me how ..."

Thanks! I think we can see the uncut diamond in there... that might be why it shot off in popularity. Or it could be due to my discovery that I included as a post script :)


message 23: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Moonbutterfly wrote: "Yeah, I always felt this book was in need of a serious editor. It didn't feel like a final draft. Interesting story but was lacking for me. I think the writing style had much to do with that. For m..."

Oh! I was hoping it gets better with the next two...


Michael I appreciated your thoughtful review. Even with zillions of readers, one usually only gets a visceral response on its entertainment value. great for you to unpack the strengths of the book in various spheres. The breakdown of different pathways for response to abuse wasa helpful framework. It's wise sometimes to wait a year or two for the dust to settle on really popular books, so maybe your review will move some of those folks.


message 25: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Michael wrote: "I appreciated your thoughtful review. Even with zillions of readers, one usually only gets a visceral response on its entertainment value. great for you to unpack the strengths of the book in vari..."

Thanks Michael! I hardly read a popular book without a personal recc, so that works out sometimes. 'cartoonishness of the characters'! loved that.


message 26: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Loved your review. I saw the Swedish movies, and really liked them. Now i'm even more motivated to read the books. :)


message 27: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Traveller wrote: "Loved your review. I saw the Swedish movies, and really liked them. Now i'm even more motivated to read the books. :)"

Naughty! GO stand in the corner for peeking at movies before reading the books!


message 28: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Heh, i must admit that that is the reason i haven't been curious enough to read the books yet. Watching movies of a book first does tend to spoil the book a bit, isn't it? :S


message 29: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Traveller wrote: "Heh, i must admit that that is the reason i haven't been curious enough to read the books yet. Watching movies of a book first does tend to spoil the book a bit, isn't it? :S"

A bit, yeah sure.


message 30: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj How does the swedish ones compare with the new english one?


message 31: by ☯Bettie☯ (last edited Sep 29, 2012 01:44AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

☯Bettie☯ Riku wrote: "How does the swedish ones compare with the new english one?"

Noomi Rapaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace

in

Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaace

http://youtu.be/r-EZC5zn2Fk


Tarun Bahuguna I couldn't read your entire review but your take on the book did manage to give me second thoughts on my rating. Your insight on the book was far superior than its hollywood adaptation.


message 33: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Tarun wrote: "I couldn't read your entire review but your take on the book did manage to give me second thoughts on my rating. Your insight on the book was far superior than its hollywood adaptation."

Sorry if the review was overly prolix. Have you read the book as well? The movie hardly does it justice.


Tarun Bahuguna I just finished it. The movie was quite forgettable but your deep insight has done no harm, I will only blame my procrastination.


message 35: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Tarun wrote: "I just finished it. The movie was quite forgettable but your deep insight has done no harm, I will only blame my procrastination."

Hey, anytime. :)


message 36: by Abhinav (new) - added it

Abhinav Perhaps the first time I'm reading a review of a mainstream novel by you. Good one, Riku. :)


message 37: by Lynne (new) - added it

Lynne King Riku,

Such a fabulous review.

I rather like the sound of this book and I'll probably buy it.


message 38: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Abhinav wrote: "Perhaps the first time I'm reading a review of a mainstream novel by you. Good one, Riku. :)"

Thanks, Abhinav!

btw, I do read mainstream! Usually I end up coming to bury, instead of praise. :)


message 39: by Riku (new) - rated it 4 stars

Riku Sayuj Lynne wrote: "Riku,

Such a fabulous review.

I rather like the sound of this book and I'll probably buy it."


Thanks, Lynne for always being so kind! I will look forward to seeing how you react to this.


back to top