So I was a little late to jump on the Stieg Larsson bandwagon. I had seen the books dominating all of the bestseller lists for months now, but I still hadn’t managed to go to the store to pick it up. I really didn’t know anything about the storyline and didn’t think it was any more or less special that the multitudes of other books that pass through the bestseller lists. Then I went away on vacation with my sister and mother. We bought several books to entertain ourselves with on the cross country flight, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was one of them as I had heard so much hype about it at this point. My sister picked up the book and couldn’t put it down. My sister, who never reads, ran through the book in less than a week. So I was impressed and decided when she was done I would try it out.
This was one of the best reading decisions I have ever made in my life. After years upon years of reading tons of books from all types of genres, there is little out there in a book that can surprise you. You pick up on the clues to each plot development can always tell who the bad guy is. There was nothing remotely predictable about anything that happened in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Without giving to much away for the handful of readers remaining who have not gotten to this book, the novel starts out with two parallel story lines. The first follows financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist starting with his public conviction for libel. The second follows investigator Lisbeth Salander, who works for a security firm doing background check for clients and is the absolute best at what she does, despite possessing a deceiving appearances. For a long time the only connection between these two characters besides they both reside in Sweden someone hired Lisbeth to conduct a background check on Blomkvist. After many separate adventures, about halfway through the novel the characters meet finally and the story only escalates towards its dramatic ending from there.
But what is most interesting about this book is not just the fascinating and surprising plot line and the intriguing characters. No, the most interesting element of this novel is the author’s subtle political commentary that runs through the novel parallel to Lisbeth Salander’s story. Salander has been deemed not fit to managed her own life by the government, almost entirely on the basis that she refused to cooperate with the system. She refused to talk in school, refused to talk to psychologists sent to evaluate her, so everyone assumed she was mentally slow instead of stubborn. Because of this evaluation Salander has no control over her own affairs. She has a legal guardian (who is not related to her) that controls every aspect of her life. Throughout the novel, Larsson shows his reader her true nature and her background to make their more understanding of her behavior as Michael Blomkvist is. Blomkvist confuses Lisbeth because he does not try and fix her, he just lets her be as she wants, something she has never experienced in her life. This different role of government and society in controlling an individuals behavior is a very foreign concept to Americans (to whom individual freedom is the highest value) and only highlights the cultural difference between it and other Western European countries despite the fact they are usually described in similar, universal terms.
All in all, this is a novel with a little bit of something for everyone. If you haven’t yet you can click below to purchase your own copy of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.