Brad's Reviews > The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
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's review
Jan 24, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: doing-the-dishes, mystery, serial-killer, swedish-lit, in-the-shower
Recommended for: Erika, Ruzz
Read in January, 2010 , read count: 1

I've heard and read many complaints about Stieg Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo:

1. It's misogynistic.
2. It's packed with cliché.
3. It's too convoluted.
4. It's too disturbing.
5. Lisbeth wasn't autistic enough or was foolishly autistic.
6. There were too many red herrings, and the damn Nazi red herring didn't have the usual payoff.
7. Too/Two many plots.
8. Too hard on Leviticus.

I will answer these in a moment, but first I must declare that I am an unrepentant fan of this book. This is one of the rare times when I long for goodreads to have half grades, because I would love to give this 4.5. I can't give it a full 5, though, because I sense Mr. Larsson's series is going to grow in his last two books.

And now...back to the top eight complaints:

1. Perhaps, but how can a book whose original Swedish title is "Men Who Hate Women" avoid misogyny? It can't. But at least the misogyny present is a comment on misogyny. Larsson isn't being misogynist. He's attacking misogyny.

Moreover, our hero, Mikael Blomkvist, is not one of the men who hate women. He is a pretty good guy, actually; in fact, he's one of the rare guys I would actually categorize as a "good guy" in most modern literature. Sure...he's a bad Dad. Sure...he has a failed marriage and many sexual relationships. Sure...he makes some decisions that challenge his ethics. But he remains a "good guy." He tries to do well in an ugly world. He never succumbs to cynicism. And he genuinely cares about all the people in his life. Male and female.

And it's not like Berger and Salander are weak women -- far from it. There may be misogyny in Men Who Hate Women, but it is wholly the characters' misogyny -- those who have it -- and not the author's.

2. With apologies to my friend who's first name starts with T: Cliché, smiché! Yes there's some cliché -- maybe plenty of cliché -- but who cares?! Seriously? We're not talking about Proust here. We're talking about a mystery novel, a serial killer who-dunnit. Complaining about cliché in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is like complaining about "pinko sympathies" in The Communist Manifesto.

There's communism in Marx? Really? You think!?

3 & 7. Yep. There's a couple of distinct plots here, but there's a level of verisimilitude to that. Have even our banal lives ever had anything important happen without something else important occurring at the same time? Not mine, and to have multiple incidents happening simultaneously makes sense to me. The search for Harriet Vanger wasn't hampered at all by the Wennerström drama, and vice versa. And to be honest, I loved having a pair of mysteries solved in the same novel.

4. Too disturbing compared to what? It's nowhere near as disturbing as American Psycho, and it's about average as far as the serial killer genre goes. Plus, I think there is a power in the graphic moments of this novel, particularly Lisbeth's vengeance on her guardian. I am not on her side when it comes to this vengeance, but I understand it, and the drive to take vengeance in such a way -- such a human way -- fascinates me. Who'd have thought, besides maybe my friend Manny, that the Swedes have it in them?

5. Perhaps this is true, but at this point I have only read one of the trilogy, and the only person who suggested that Lisbeth was autistic was Mikael, and while he thought she was suffering from Asberger's his guess was only in passing. I can cut the book some slack here. (suspend my disbelief, suspend my disbelief).

6. I was stoked that, for once, the Nazis were a red herring rather than the ultimate, degenerated evil. We all expect the Nazis to be the worst of the worst, so it is refreshing to see them as a deflection instead.

8. Can anyone really be too hard on Leviticus? Ummmmm...nope.

Now, I admit that I might love this novel simply because it is set in Sweden. After all, I do love ABBA, Fredrik Ljungberg, IKEA (my apologies), glögg, Stellan Skarsgård, Max von Sydow, Ingmar Bergman, and Mats Sundin. I looked into emigrating to Sweden but had no excuse, being a resident of Canada with no skills the Swedes were looking for, and I am a fan of Norse Mythology, but I do love Sweden, and I was jazzed by the setting of Larsson's book. All that aside, however, I think The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a compelling, entertaining and unabashedly thrilling read.

If you can overlook the eight complaints, or consider them in a different light, you'll like this book too. I promise.
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Reading Progress

02/01 marked as: read

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

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message 1: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy I was wondering when you were going to get around to reading this! I look forward to your thoughts on it.

Brad Yep, finally doing it. I'm liking it so far too.

message 3: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy It gets even better as you get into it.

Ellen Well, now I'm conflicted. I've read love/hate reviews on this book from reviewers I trust on both sides.

Hmmm...I guess I'll mark it "to read" and think it about it. I am Swedish. I suppose there's that loyalty. ...Even though NO ONE celebrates Sweden's National Day (June 6). Of course, St. Patrick's Day is a big deal. /end of rant

So, really? I should read this? I do like mysteries.

Stephen I hated this book because it read like a series of newspaper articles, and the characters were not all that compelling to me. Plus, slooooowwwwwww start to finish.

I do respect Brad's opinion's though, so that has to count for something. And why am I the only one to have voted for this when others have commented???

Ellen Stephen wrote: "I hated this book because it read like a series of newspaper articles, and the characters were not all that compelling to me. Plus, slooooowwwwwww start to finish.

I do respect Brad's opinion's t..."

Hey, I voted for it first. Ta. da.

Stephen hehehehehehehheeh at least you voted

Stephen Elizabeth? You liked it? I couldn't take that stilted writing. Maybe I'm losing my mind or taste or something.

Trevor I absolutely agree about Leviticus - and that should have been enough for me to love this book. And although I can see that part of the book serves a very important social function, it just wasn't enough for me to like the book. I also agree with Stephen, that the main problem with this one was it was so endlessly slow. Ah well, all the same, I also am forced to agree with your about not trusting anyone's reviews if their name starts with T... A mistake I would never make myself.

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

Brad Trevor wrote: "Ah well, all the same, I also am forced to agree with your about not trusting anyone's reviews if their name starts with T... A mistake I would never make myself...." You know I love you, though, right? ;)

Trevor Not something I would doubt for a moment.

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

Joy Another great review Brad! I wonder what you will think of The Girl who played with Fire. I didn't like it as well as this one.

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

Brad Joy wrote: "Another great review Brad! I wonder what you will think of The Girl who played with Fire. I didn't like it as well as this one."

I'm going to wait until March for the paperback, but I am very curious. I've heard good and bad about it so far. I really liked Blomkvist and Samander, so he'll really have to blow it for me not to at least enjoy it.

Bonnie Ditto, re: previous message.

message 15: by Becky (new)

Becky Brilliant review, made me giggle a few times. I loved the book and am just going to go and buy the next two now...

message 16: by Brad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad Thanks, Jane and Bonnie and Becky.

message 17: by Elizabeth (new) - added it

Elizabeth whoa, i didn't know about the original title. that makes SO much more sense in the context of the book!

Dalee best review by far, perhaps better written than the book. ! just started the second book, love love so far.

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

Brad Thanks, Dalee. I wouldn't go that far, but I appreciate it nonetheless.

message 20: by Kwilliams (new)

Kwilliams williams Yes Brad, it's all those things. And it's a great read!

Karena Great review!

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

Brad Why thank ya.

message 23: by Amber (new)

Amber Tucker I've been curious about this trilogy. Almost bought Dragon Tattoo the other day. As things go, I'll undoubtedly get my paws on it just when the buzz dies down.

message 24: by Brad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad It's a perfect read for entertainment value.

message 25: by Amber (new)

Amber Tucker Sounds like summertime material to me!!

message 26: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy Brad, here's an update on the movie casting for Salander -

Sounds like Ellen Page is out of the running.

message 27: by Brad (last edited Jul 28, 2010 04:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad Thanks for the link, Joy. Checking it in a second. The most recent gos I heard was Mulligan. Curious. Not sure how she'd be.

message 28: by Brad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad And it sounds like she's not in the running anymore. Hmmm. I need to look up the final four.

message 29: by Charles (new)

Charles Lanham Haven't read it yet, but I love epic books, and. I Did See The Movie!

Really. I disagree. For what I saw, the book had the most dynamic and fascinating characters. And if that wasn't what made me so hooked onto it, it was the fact it had an epic plot. Man this piece is an instant class. Larsson is a mastermind.

Veronica I completely agree with your review. I do feel it was a bit of a slow start but once you get into the Vanger mystery it tends to speed up a bit. Now i'm looking forward to seeing the movie...we'll see where this goes I suppose?!

Elizabeth Sulzby @Brad: This was a most useful review for me. I like the I wish there were 4.5 point you made because I am there, too. I had the advantage to hearing the book read in audio book form. I agreed with all your points except that I am not so deep into Sweden but more into Norway, Finland and the arctic circle. Saying that, I have a number of Swedish friends and have spent some time in Stockholm. I actually thought the Swedish part was pretty incidental to the story. I could see these characters playing their stories out in other locales. On the other hand, the Swedish setting worked for me. I've written my own reactions as well.

Marcele Seems you have an indescribable love for Sweden like me! I recommend you read Wallander series because of it and because is also a mystery series. The way Mankell describes his country always makes me want to live there. I actually recognized the name of some places in this book because of Mankell and I think both authors write slightly alike.

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

Brad Funny you should recommend that, Marcele. I have, indeed, been reading Wallander lately. The BBC Wallander with Kenneth Branagh sucked me in. I really enjoyed the first one, Faceless Killers, but I was less impressed with the Dogs of Riga. I have the next one ready to read, though, so I'll keep you posted.

message 34: by Marcele (last edited Feb 24, 2011 08:38AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Marcele Indeed some books aren't so good, I also don't like Dogs of Riga very much [maybe because have so little time in Sweden? :)], but the books will get better, specially Sidetracked. :)

message 35: by Mark (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mark Hi Brad, though I didn't agree with your 4 stars i thoroughly enjoyed your review. It was a goodread in itself so thanks. Incidentally, no need to apologize for liking IKEA , what sensible man wouldn't

message 36: by Brad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad :) Thanks, Mark.

Michelle I met up with a friend today and I mentioned to her I had just finished this book. She asked me how it was and I told her that there was a lot of messed up things that happened but it wasn't as disturbing as American Psycho! I just read your review and it was just funny how we mentioned the same thing. The only other book that made me physically ill was Wetlands.

Leslie Outstanding review. Very well said. I agree on all counts. Bravo!

Sarah I loved the book too! I didn't expect to see so many people didn't like the book. Great review. I totally agree!

message 40: by Brad (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad Thanks, Sarah and Leslie.

message 41: by Brad (last edited Aug 06, 2011 03:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad The next person who votes for this review makes it my first, one and only review to hit 200 likes. Be that person and I will send you a book :) (I just like the feel of two hundred)

Wendy Good review Brad. I just finished the book myself. Having difficulty rating it. Leaning more towards 3 stars

message 43: by Joy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joy Wonder if they are going to do any more movies based on this book series.

message 44: by Tishya (new) - added it

Tishya I read this book because a friend recommended it to me and it was too slow for my taste . Anyway .. I am looking for a good book to read ... And this time I want a decent one !!! So someone please suggest something useful

Samuel Udoetuk This book is not disturbing. So what if Lisbeth anally rapes her guardian with a butt plug. He deserved it!!!

Daniel I was disappointed to see so many people hating on this book. I enjoyed your review and also loved this book.

Popaj I meant to write a comment. But I gave up when I read Brad's comment. Brad has written everything.And more than it should.

Loveliest Evaris Women being hurt does not mean the book is misogynistic. Women write about women getting hurt all the time, in horrible ways, but that's apparently not misogynistic? Stieg treated the topic of sexual abuse and rape with a careful hand. Also, the degrees in which someone suffers from Autism/Asperger's (if Lisbeth has it at all) vary widely among the individuals. "Not autistic enough" is fucking insulting for people like me who have worked very hard to tamper down our weirder tendencies and to memorize nonverbal signs and societal expectations. The nerve of some people.People complaining Lisbeth is

Gbenle Shalom I love this book so so so interesting, never want to drop as if am mikael. From millennium 1 to 3 was full of action to the end

message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks for this review! Having not read the book, it's easy to find reviews backing up the eight points you listed so it's nice to find an itemised list of arguments against them. Helpful as I'm trying to decide whether to read it or not.

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