After reading yesterday’s post, the Inmate wrote: I was looking at The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at the bookstore yesterday, is it any good?
I had a surprisingly hard time answering her question. It should be a fairly simple ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ right? But instead, I said:
Hmm … yes? We had a really good discussion about it, but there are issues. It might help to know that the title of the book in Sweden was Men Who Hate Women. Had I known that going in, it would have been helpful. There are some really good things about it, but there are other things that left me feeling annoyed and I didn’t know if they were problems with the writing or problems with the translation. So … am I recommending it? I think I’m still on the fence. I’ll probably read the sequel because the “girl” of the title is very compelling, but I might have to wait a while to do it in order to prepare myself for the varieties of ugly Larsson wrote about so (seemingly) casually. There’s a spoiler-filled review at the NYTimes that’s pretty on the money.
I mentioned this sideways comment to Mopsy after work, and she was more than a little surprised by my response, reminding me that I’d been riveted, hardly wanting to put the book down. And that’s true, but I’m still not sure that means this is a good book. For one, that line about not being sure if the things I didn’t like were about writing or translation, isn’t entirely true. Yes, there are places where the turns of phrase are weak and awkward, and I choose to believe that translation could be responsible for those bits. But there are plot twists (or, in one instance, plot disappearances) that are about writing. And that drives me crazy. Seems careless and almost inconsiderate. I know that the main characters in this book come back in book two, and so there’s more to learn about them, but some of what’s left unresolved here just doesn’t work from a storytelling perspective.
One of the things we talked about last night was why is this book such a big deal, why are so many people ga-ga over it. There’s the possibility that the flurry of interest is because of the sad and untimely death of the author (heart attack, before the book was even accepted for publication, if I remember correctly). And that’s probably part of it. But I think part of it is also the graphic, prurient violence … and that all that graphic, prurient violence is happening in Sweden of all places. I would guess most people don’t give Sweden much thought beyond the Nobel Prize, Volvo, Bergman, Ikea and ABBA … and then here’s this story that shows us a seamy side we weren’t expecting. But is that really enough of a reason for all the noise and book sales? I’m not sure.
Ok, did I like the book? Yes. There are definitely things I didn’t like about it. There are definitely things about the story that I could really have lived well and happily without. But in the end I have to go back to what Mopsy said. I practically inhaled this book, and that definitely counts for something. The mystery of “what happened to Harriet” is enough to keep me turning the pages, and Lizbeth Salander is a fascinating character. Did I love the book? No, but I definitely liked it.
And I put book two — The Girl Who Played with Fire — on hold at the library. I’m currently hold 126 of 127 holds. I’ll keep you posted.