Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a nice book, just not perhaps as good as I expected it to be.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The first time I saw this book in the local Crossword (and it has been on the special shelf forever now) I thought that it seemed like a different book - specifically because of the cover art, which I like very much - though as far as tattoos go, this was probably better. But I didn't buy it at the time because I didn't find the back descriptions particularly interesting (except for the part of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo herself). Later on, however, I read this review, and I decided to read the book after all. But then, obviously, I forgot all about it. And then last Rakshabandhan, I decided that my brother was going to buy me some books, so I bought King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes (which I read and reviewed first, here) and this book.

I won't say I was disappointed. Maybe I just had very high expectations. But there were both positives and negatives in this one.

The first thing was the beginning, which is slow and full of pages and pages of characters telling their stories. I understand why this is important to move the story forward, but to tell the truth I skimmed through the whole long family histories and the exposition in the beginning just because it was plain boring. I do read a lot of description in many books, but the pace I expected from this book was sorely lacking in the beginning, though it picked up phenomenally towards the end.

But if the book began slowly then it certainly ended with a bang. There were loads of positives about the book, starting, of course, from the wonderful characters. I loved the characters - all of them - from the enigmatic Lisbeth Salander (the girl with the dragon tattoo), the honest and hard-hitting and charming journalist Blomkovist and even most of the dysfunctional family that these two unite to probe. None of the characters are totally good - there are shades of grey in all of them, and there are some that are positively black, and the best part is that its not so predictable that you know from the onset which character comes in which category. Larsson has really written many memorable characters in this one, and no matter what I'd felt about this book, I knew from the starting of the book that I would have to read the next one - if just for Lisbeth, who is one of my favourite characters at the moment. The inter-character relationships are also amazingly well done - they're beautiful, complex, and so very human that one can't help but admire Larsson as a writer when you read them.

The plot is quite engrossing, especially after the first thirty or forty pages. In fact, after that point the book is edgy, fast, and extremely interesting - so much so that I couldn't put down the book even though I really had to study for my term end exams because I was so afraid of what would happen to the characters ahead. Through most of the book, I was just hoping that the mystery at the centre of this book was solved in this book itself and not in one of the sequels (I think I would never even have touched the sequels if this had happened, though. I don't mind cliffhanger endings at the end of chapters, but I do hate unfinished books). I really thought the main plot was very interesting, and definitely not predictable (which would definitely have killed a book which is based so strongly on the suspense) - and the subplots (especially the one considering Erika, who is another great character) which weave in and out of the main story without ever drawing the attention away from it.

I also really like Larsson's way of writing from many different point-of-views, because it really helps you to sympathize with a wide variety of characters (though he cleverly avoids showing you a glimpse into the heads of anyone who might reveal more of plot than he wants to reveal at the time). This style of writing works very well with the structure of the book, because the story is quite vast and involves a large cast of characters, and the whole story only becomes clear when you see it with the different views. (I also enjoyed seeing Harriet and Lisbeth's different reactions to similar situations - and Lisbeth's judgement of Harriet for the same - very layered and very interesting. This was my favourite part of the book.)

Final thoughts: It begins slightly slowly, but overall its a good book - with a nice plot, fast pace, and highly interesting characters. Its quite graphic (definitely not for kids) but if you're okay with that and like action/suspense, I'm pretty sure you'll like this book.

Other thoughts: Well, after a long time the books I've read are going ahead of the reviews I've written. I'm going to write a review of Which Witch? pretty soon, and I've also read Adiga's White Tiger, a review of which will also be coming fast.


  1. These are many of the reasons I also liked this story. It's not high literature, but it is a great quick read. And yes, the characters are interesting with their complexities...
    I realised later perhaps that there is quite a bit of repetition - with the different characters view points - but I haven't changed my overall view of the series.

  2. This book lacks in many areas to be classified as a great book...But this series is worth reading..

    The second book is pretty fast compared to the first and third and you will see yourselves changing your opinions about many characters :)

    Happy Reading!!!

  3. I really liked this book, even though I initially had some problem visualizing the places where the story took place. The slow start, though, helped to build up the plot, and is a motif that's been carried forward into the second part as well. I think you'll like the second part better; it's faster-paced that the first one. I still have to read the third part myself.
    Great review! :)

  4. Pujhita: Hmm...I agree with what you say, but I think even then its better to have repetition than to have a flat narrative.

    Elizabeth: Welcome. :) I'm looking forward to reading the second book.

    Modern Gypsy: I agree that the slow start had a role to play, but I have a feeling that it could've been done in a different way. Still, I'm definitely gonna read the second part and share my opinions then... :)

  5. Good review. Have been hearing a lot about this book series, but wasn't able to decide whether it is worth reading or not :)

  6. Thanks. :)
    So, what did you decide?

  7. No I wouldn't say so at all, its pretty gritty and more of it is narrated by a man than the girl with the dragon tattoo herself. :)

  8. nice :)
    i'll ask for the book when i finish "memoirs of a geisha"...have u read it? i like it...although i've read only about 80-90 pgs....:D

  9. Oh ya definitely...
    Not read it but seen the movie. :)

  10. I hope you like it. :) Let me know what you think about it.


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