The Girl with the Predictable Story

Stieg Larsson started taking the world by storm while I wasn’t looking. I picked up The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo later than most and was excited to finally see what was stirring such a commotion. Closing the cover and putting it down, I was enraged. Can you call a book a mystery or thriller if you knew the ending in the first 12 pages?

I’ve heard arguments that this book is feminist in nature and I just can’t wrap my head around that. Yes Salander is a “tough” girl - tasering people, hacking into files and riding a motorcycle - but the only way she knows to interact with a man apparently must involve sex. There was a glimmer of hope as she began to trust and form a friendship, but in the end she responded the only way women Larsson create can - sexually. The suggestion that women must communicate through sex is simply demeaning.

I had also heard this novel is a bit gruesome, but this was not true for me. And perhaps I’ve just read too many “dark” novels (I like Palahniuk - a lot) but this felt more like it was reaching than achieving. When he discussed a sexual trauma, it was either vague or awkward. I mean, a parakeet stuffed up a vagina? I was smirking, not squirming in discomfort. It’s not easy to capture sexual trauma in a way that makes it true to the horror while keeping the reader’s fragile sensibilities intact. But it can be done.

At the end of the book, the overwhelming feeling from Larsson’s work was frustration. It felt unfocused; from the clichés and grammatical errors to the long-winded narration and the cumbersome relationship between the murder/finance storylines.

I slogged through 644 pages just to find out that I knew the “mystery” all along. I read with fervor, not because I was intrigued, but because I wanted it to be over. All the commotion suggests there is something good about this book. And I wish I could find it.

1 comment:

  1. Except for the fact the ending did surprise me, I have to agree with the rest of your critique. The thing about this book that bothered me the most, too, was Larsson's apparent inability to flesh a out female character without the constant sexual response to the hero. I have to say I have encountered this often with male authors(although not always). It appears to me that some of them just can't let go of their own masculine sexual sensibilities when creating a female character.


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