Shannon (Giraffe Days)'s Reviews > The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
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Jun 23, 10

bookshelves: 2010, crime, mystery-suspense
Recommended to Shannon (Giraffe Days) by: Kiwiria
Read in June, 2010

My friend Maria from Denmark got me onto these books and I'm so so glad she did. I read the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo , last year, and as soon as book two came out in paperback a couple of months ago I grabbed a copy (I did pay for it). Then she told me it has a real cliffhanger ending, and that she'd send me book 3 (which wasn't even out here at the time). I waited till it arrived and then last weekend I took this one up to the cottage. It's perfect sunny day, waterside reading.

The main events are set about a year after the end of the first book, and aren't directly related to the mystery of that book. Lisbeth Salander, twenty-five, less than five feet tall and a skilled computer hacker, has broken off all communication with Mikael Blomkvist, the journalist she helped and had a relationship with in the first book. She has her stolen billions from the corporate criminal Wennerström and takes a year off, travelling around the world. When she returns to Stockholm, she makes some changes in her life. She buys an expensive condo and a car, reconnects with her friend Mimmi, and checks up on her state-appointed guardian, Bjurman.

She can't resist hacking into Blomkvist's computers and seeing what's he's working on: a feature and a book written by another journalist, Dag Svensson, on sex trafficking. Dag's partner, Mia Johansson, is doing her PhD on the same topic, though from a different angle. It's an absorbing project that Mikael is editing, and Salander doesn't become really interested until a name turns up in the research: Zala.

On the same night Lisbeth visits Dag and Mia to find out what they know about Zala, the couple are murdered. The murder weapon is a gun owned by Bjurman with Lisbeth's fingerprints on it.

Suddenly Salander is a fugitive, wanted for mass murders. Her history - or choice parts of it - are splashed across the papers and embellished. Only Blomkvist is sure of her innocence - and he intends to prove it. Of course Salander has her own plans, and everything centres on the mysterious unknown figure of Zala.

This is one very tight novel. While book 1 started off slow and had some even slower patches to get through, this second book is fast-paced and never dull. I was deeply engrossed and read most of the hefty book in one day (it helped to be lazing around at the cottage with few distractions!). From the beginning it held my absolute attention. The characters, established in the first book, become so much real here. Lisbeth in particular becomes the main attraction, and even reading about what she buys from IKEA for her new apartment engrossed me. (For readers who complain about "irrelevant" details in books, they'll no doubt hate this. Larsson's style is very detail-oriented at times.)

We learn about Lisbeth's past, and get her side of the story - as well as the psychiatrist's. Continuing the theme from book one of "men who hate women", The Girl Who Played With Fire has several note-worthy bigots, chauvinists, misogynists and downright arrogant bastards (the original Swedish title of book 1, Maria told me, translates directly into English as "men who hate women". But I can see why they changed it and went with "the girl who..."). It's interesting, men like these populate a lot of fiction, TV shows and movies, and we just accept them. They tend to be clichés, true to type, and familiar. But we never really see the damage they do, the bigger context such attitudes creates, how they really affect women - as a gender. That's what's really highlighted in The Girl Who Played With Fire. It threads its way through the entire novel, not front-and-centre but consistently present. And it helps you see just how far we haven't come.

The maths references were beyond me, and I could only vaguely get the metaphors at the beginning of each part. Frankly it was like reading another language. I was still interested in Salander's mathematical hobby, but at the end where she suddenly figures out Fermat's equation, I'm impressed at her skill but have no idea if it was meant to be clear to me as well. I don't even understand what the puzzle was! (and please don't bother trying to explain it to me. I just don't have a mathematical background to follow.)

I was glued to this book - for someone who doesn't read and doesn't care for crime fiction, detective stories etc (unless they're literary, which sounds so snobby, but just means that I need better character development and greater detail than you get from the actual genre), it seems like a big deal to me. This isn't just a crime to be solved, a mystery to puzzle out, a whodunnit. It touches on deeper social issues, is dark and gritty and unabashedly violent but never, I think, gratuitous; and every character is one that becomes tangible. It's like those rare TV shows where the characters become so familiar they're like an extended family - which is what every network hopes to achieve with every show, don't they? I'd say Larsson succeeded exceptionally well with the Millennium books. As soon as I'd finished this one, I picked up the third, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. Let's just say that my challenge-required reading has been, ah, delayed!
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Comments (showing 1-26 of 26) (26 new)

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Shannon (Giraffe Days) The second one is the best I think - I'm making progress in book 3 and it lacks the suspense and mystery of 1 and 2, because we already know who dunnit! But still good :)


message 2: by Claudette (new)

Claudette Loved #2 even better than the first. Lisbeth is a brilliant literary character! I've been holding off on #3; it's a hefty hardback, but I'm weakening. I am so very curious to see how Lisbeth is portrayed in this last adventure. Meanwhile, this is a first for me, but I will say the movies are as good as the books! Noomi Rapace IS Lisbeth!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Claudette wrote: "Loved #2 even better than the first. Lisbeth is a brilliant literary character! I've been holding off on #3; it's a hefty hardback, but I'm weakening. I am so very curious to see how Lisbeth is por..."

I've read all three now and I can definitely say #2 is my favourite :) I didn't want to buy the hardcover of #3 either - I recommend ordering the UK paperback from the Book Depository, they're cheap and shipping is free. Then you don't have to wait!


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Amelia wrote: "I am about to start number two now. Will have to see if I can find the movies, keep getting rav reviews from friends."

#2 was the best, Amelia! At least I thought so :D It had the most suspense and mystery, that's for sure.

Haven't seen the films yet; the first is on DVD so I might rent it this weekend. A friend told me they made changes, which you need to do anyway, and she also said they left in a lot of the violence, which isn't a bad warning to have! I think she was referring to when Lisbeth is raped.


message 5: by Claudette (new)

Claudette Re: the violence in the movie, Shannon, your friend was not referring to the rape scene. It's there and is quite painful; I had to close my eyes at some point, and I'm not generally a wuss. However, it is not gratuitous. It really does help inform who Lisbeth is.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Claudette wrote: "Re: the violence in the movie, Shannon, your friend was not referring to the rape scene. It's there and is quite painful; I had to close my eyes at some point, and I'm not generally a wuss. However..."

I wouldn't want them to leave it out - I agree, it's very important to the characters and the story. They are hard to watch though. I remember how awful the rape scene in Monster was ... Not as awful as living through it: sometimes my brain feels like it will explode, trying to wrap itself around the concept that it happens at all.


Maria M. Elmvang Assuming I was the friend, I was actually referring to the rape scene. I agree completely that it wasn't gratuitous, but that didn't make it any less painful to watch.

All three movies are excellent! I'm sad they're remaking them in the US rather than showing the originals though.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Kiwiria wrote: "Assuming I was the friend, I was actually referring to the rape scene. I agree completely that it wasn't gratuitous, but that didn't make it any less painful to watch.

All three movies are excelle..."


No it was a woman at work who told me about it after seeing the movie the night before :) She just mentioned that they included a lot of graphic scenes and I got the impression she didn't like that part of it. It's bound to be confronting.

I think they are showing the originals here Maria. The second one's in the cinema now. They have English subtitles. I haven't heard anything about American re-makes, though that was what I was expecting. Glad they're not though! I'd prefer the Swedish movies.


Maria M. Elmvang Very confronting, and very, very unpleasant! I'm glad I'd read the book before watching the movie, so I knew what was coming.

Oh, I'm glad they're showing the Swedish movies! I'd heard all sorts of rumours about a Hollywood version with either Brad Pitt(!!!) or Daniel Craig as Mikael Blomkvist and Angelina Jolie as Lisbeth Salander!!! No, no, no, no, no!


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

Brad While we are getting the original Swedish movies, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is indeed being made by Hollywood. David Fincher (Seven and Fight Club) is the confirmed director. Daniel Craig is in negotiation to play Blomkvist and is assumed to be on the cusp of signing and Ellen Page is the front runner for Salander. Filming begins soon.


Maria M. Elmvang Glad to hear Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are no longer being considered. Daniel Craig and Ellen Page could be okay, but Noomi Rapace will be a very, very tough act to follow. She was AMAZING as Lisbeth.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Brad wrote: "While we are getting the original Swedish movies, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is indeed being made by Hollywood. David Fincher (Seven and Fight Club) is the confirmed director. Daniel Craig is in n..."

Crap. Though I'm not surprised. They just can't keep their sticky fingers off something that's already made a lot of money as a book, and god knows they think Americans won't want to read subtitles!

Actually maybe that's true, of all of us English-speaking peoples - I have friends who consider it too much work to read subtitles, and plenty of people expect a "foreign" movie to be too heavy and alien. So "foreign"! It's sad. So many excellent movies are actually just remakes of non-western movies. I find the remakes largely unnecessary, and often miss the point of the original.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Kiwiria wrote: "Very confronting, and very, very unpleasant! I'm glad I'd read the book before watching the movie, so I knew what was coming.

Oh, I'm glad they're showing the Swedish movies! I'd heard all sorts o..."


I'm so bored to tears of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie! What a cliche! Daniel Craig I could allow...


message 14: by Joy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy I think Daniel Craig is a good choice but I can't see Ellen Page as Lisbeth. She's a good actress but she's so tiny and young looking (she still looks like she's in high school to me). I think they should chose an unknown actress for the part.


message 15: by Claudette (new)

Claudette There will only be one trilogy, and there is only one Lisbeth! True fans will shun the American remakes. NO, I shouldn't speak for anyone but myself! I've no interest in remakes. The good news is that the third (Swedish original) will be released this Fall. So if you haven't read the third book yet, get reading!


Diane I can see Ellen Page as Lisbeth - she's very young-looking in the books. I'm not as sold on the idea of Daniel Craig as Blomkvist - they need something like a young Robert Redford type.


message 17: by Joy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy I don't get the impression from the books that Blomkvist is especially good looking, just average.


Diane I didn't mean for looks, I meant for sincerity/earnestness, the whole quest for the truth that Redford is so good at.


message 19: by Joy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy Diane wrote: "I didn't mean for looks, I meant for sincerity/earnestness, the whole quest for the truth that Redford is so good at."

Oh, I get it! Like in All the President's Men? Maybe Ellen Page could pull off Lisbeth if they give her fake tattoos and nose rings etc. I forgot that Lisbeth is only 5 feet tall or so...


message 20: by Brad (last edited Jul 22, 2010 05:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Brad I would be a little surprised to see Ellen Page play Lisbeth. In many ways she's already played the part (and quite well). She was in a little indy movie called Hard Candy a few years back where she tortures a child molester for most of the film, and there are real shades of Lisbeth in that role. I wonder if she'd want to cover similar territory again. But having seen her in Hard Candy I am sure she could pull it off very easily.


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Joy wrote: "I don't get the impression from the books that Blomkvist is especially good looking, just average."

Actually he is described not only as a lady's man but as very handsome. Part of it is probably his personality, but he is described as handsome :)


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Does anyone know if they're transplanting the novel to America or pretending it's still Swedish? I'm not keen on either scenario to be honest... (not keen on remakes of perfectly good films!)


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

Brad I haen't heard, but even a cool director like Chris Nolan (and I reckon Fincher is similarly cool) put his version of the amazing Swedish Insomnia in Alaska. I wouldn't be surprised to see a similar switch (although I think I would prefer them to keep it in Sweden myself).


Shannon (Giraffe Days) Brad wrote: "I haen't heard, but even a cool director like Chris Nolan (and I reckon Fincher is similarly cool) put his version of the amazing Swedish Insomnia in Alaska. I wouldn't be surprised to see a simila..."

I didn't know Insomnia was a remake of a Swedish film! See, me, I like people/countries to get credit where credit's due. If Hollywood's going to make some money off someone else's idea and script and all the rest, they should disclaim that in the opening credits.

It's not like Sweden has a completely different political system or anything, but the books do rely on the structure of the country's laws quite a bit - I would imagine they'd need to change some details to make it more American. It just feels so wrong!


message 25: by Claudette (new)

Claudette Shannon, you're right! It's wrong!!


message 26: by Joy (new) - rated it 3 stars

Joy Brad, I saw Ellen Page in Hard Candy but I had forgotten that. Her part was kinda the anti-Juno if I remember right. Have you seen Inception? Wonder what Ellen's character is like in that one?

I think if they set the Hollywood Dragon Tattoo movie anywhere but Sweden, I won't watch it!


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