After five long days of reading it whenever I have time, I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I am relieved that it’s over, I’m a little pleased with the way it wrapped itself up, and I still feel it could have been told in a shorter prose.
This post is spoilery. Proceed with caution. 🙂
When you pick up the book, this is what it says at the back:
Harriet Vanger, 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 unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption.
Naturally, I expected the first few chapters laying out the plot to me and then Blomkvist and Salander get to work. They each have their own stories to tell, and Blomkvist as a journalist was the book’s B plot, but it took so long to bring them together that one point I almost forgot they’re going to be working together. There was a point where Blomkvist’s day to day activities were detailed, in a lather, rinse, repeat order. If there were substantial facts uncovered during these days, it didn’t justify the long narration.
The first 300+ pages were a drag and whatever’s in there could be put in half the number of pages. When Blomkvist and Salander finally worked on the Vanger case, the next 200 pages brought forth all the worthy action. The last hundred pages were devoted to the resolution of the B plot. The Vanger case was resolved by then but it’s interesting to know what will happen to Blomkvist and his magazine, Millennium. After all, I got over the last 500 pages, might as well see how it closes and ties up its ends.
Perhaps it’s from watching too much crime shows and reading a lot of suspense thrillers that even before Blomkvist and Salander met and began working on the case, I already guessed who was behind it, but not a clear picture of why and how. In addition – and this is a huge spoiler – I also knew that Harriet Vanger was still alive. I got a hint as early as the prologue. Anyway, the how and why of the Vanger story were played out well. Well-written and fast – the way this book should have been from the beginning. When you hit the part where Blomkvist and Salander got to work, you cannot put it down for the next 200 pages or so. This part was the book’s highlight. There was something sick and disgusting in something that happened in the past that at one point, I had to ask myself if going through the drag was worth it? Well, the book had outstanding moments but I still maintain that it could have been shortened and the essence won’t be lost.
I have the second and third installments in this trilogy and I don’t know if I am ready to pick them up this soon. I mentioned that both main characters have stories to tell and Blomkvist’s was told in this first one (among many other issues in his life because this man’s pretty screwed up!) but Salander’s wasn’t. In the midst of the long plot-building (I can never stress it much), Salander had a very interesting incident and it deserves to be fleshed out. I believe it’s going to be dealt with in the next book, The Girl Who Played with Fire.
A good number of friends liked this book and an equally good number didn’t. However, to those who bothered to get through it, they were able to say that the story was strong and interesting. Thing is, it’s like riding a 3-minute roller coaster ride with the first two minutes spent slowly going through the flat tracks.
My rating for this book is 7/10.
If you read this book, let me know what you think of it.