Monday, September 16, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of iniquity and corruption.

Author: Stieg Larsson
Country:  Sweden (2005)
Published in English: 2008, translated by Reg Keeland
Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Series:  #1 of the Millenium Series
Pages:  590

"It was uneven stylistically, and in places the writing was actually rather poor - there had been no time for any fine polishing - but the book was animated by a fury that no reader could help but notice." -(Berger, describing Blomkvist's book)

Maybe it's the translator's fault, I don't know, but that quote above is how I will describe Larsson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Now, now, before you flare up and start to defend this book like how I would defend my secret stash of Twix candy bars - Battle Royale style - I'm not saying this book is not good. It is. But it's overrated. In my opinion, it really is. While reading, once or twice I said to myself, "Surely, the film versions are better than this. Hopefully." (I haven't watched its film adaptations yet)

Let me explain the easiest way I can think of. Aside from that part about the mystery of the framed-flower, the first half of the book was, at best, mildly intriguing. I really couldn't care less about Mikael Blomkvist because he is bo-oring as @#!)!&, and verging on being a Gary Stu who by some sort of witchcraft, manages to get women to offer their sacred taco to him in between solving the unsolvable case ever and his trips to the store to get milk. And my god even chubby guys want a piece of his manly badonkadonk!

It only got better when Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo, stepped into the picture. Now that's an interesting protagonist.

Let me be clear, it's a good crime-thriller. The storyline is intricate, the subplots within the plots are engrossing, and the uncovering of a forty-year-old mystery through old photographs is one that I've enjoyed in this book, plus, it has one of the most fascinating female protagonists I've encountered. The thing is, the book focused largely on the mystery of Harriet Vanger's disappearance - and as a huge fan of mystery books since I can remember, I have cracked the case even before I was halfway through. Way early on, and so reading or plodding through all those complicated family tree irritates me. Granted that there's no basis in my assumptions, I just knew it. Both, regarding the villain, and the fact that (Highlight to reveal spoilers) Harriet is not really dead. Why did I assume that? First, in every mystery cases, more often than not, it's that character who seems nice that's actually the psychopathic murderer and one that you wouldn't even suspect, Martin being Harriet's brother after all. About Harriet still being alive, well it's just something I chose to believe in simply because there is no date of death in the family tree/chart. I guess after years of reading every murder/crime mystery novel I can get my hands on, it just gets easier. I really wanted to have been proven wrong, because it felt so simple. I really wish I didn't guess right. Oh well, at least there's something in the mystery that I wasn't sure of, I didn't count on a duo serial killer. And an ending which was the only twist that surprised me (it involves a cliched conflict in any romantic movie, a dumpster, and and Elvis Presley memorabilia).

To sum it up, I appreciate this book because it has a different setting, hence a different mood. If it weren't for the fact that I was disappointed with the mystery angle, I would rate this higher. I love Salander's character, I love the Millenium magazine chapters, I've enjoyed reading several chapters - in the middle, and last few chapters, but sometimes I don't like the overtelling narrative. And I really didn't need to know every bit of furniture or layout of Blomkvist's cabin. Like the quote above, TGwtDT is a bit uneven, and yet, its themes which touched on graphic violence, misogynism, and corruption (in every sense of the word) are something that has an impact on the readers. So despite its failings, it's something worth reading. And yes, I will read the second and third installment of the series - because of Salander.

My Rating: 3/5

*EDIT (Oct. 10):  Here's an article regarding the book's English translation.
Also, I have finally watched the movie adaptations & you can check my comparison review here, thanks!

Check out MY ULTIMATE BOOK BUCKET LIST or the books I wanna read before I die!

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