The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a book I would describe as having a slow start, but a satisfying build and conclusion. The start of this book presented me with so many characters that I had to make note of them to remember who was who. With it being a foreign book, it was particularly tough for me to keep track of the characters seeing as so many with them began with the same letter. This problem solves itself as you get around a quarter of the way through the book however. Somehow, Stieg Larsson was able to create characters that are all unique and filled a specific purpose.
At the heart of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a mystery, revolving around the disappearance (and assumed murder) of Harriet Vanger that occurred 30 years prior to the story. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Venger – the uncle of the missing person – to write a history of the Vanger family while also trying to solve the cold case in secret. Along the way, Blomkvist enlists the help of introvert hacker Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth presented in-depth research on Blomkvist himself at the request of Henrik Vanger. The title of the book is based on Lisbeth, who is described as a reserved young lady who has been subject to sexual abuse.
The book deals with some heavy subject matter such as rape, child abuse and corruption. Along with these themes we get a sense of what the social structure in Sweden is (or was) like. The characters and themes feel inexplicably real, which makes you want to rally behind the characters.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a long book —The version I read is 542 pages— but there are few dry spots to speak of. When Mikael Blomkvist moves to Hedeby Island to carry out his work for Henrik, there are moments when we witness him doing mundane tasks. Butt these moments simply help the reader visualise the environment, which is key for building atmosphere later on.
When it comes to the main characters, we’re to assume that Lisbeth is at the heart of this story. However, Blomkvist feels like the more fleshed out character. Blomkvist overshadows Lisbeth in the story to the point you’re left feeling as though Lisbeth was simply there to serve Blomkvist. One thing is clear though, Lisbeth is the character that you’ll want to continue the series for.
My verdict on The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
At this point, I refuse to watch the movies based on the Millennium series, so if you’re like me and have left it late to experience this story I would be inclined to tell you to stop hesitating and read it as soon as possible. For a book that is 12 years old, the book ages incredibly well, even despite its translation from the native language. It still stands against modern thrillers of today.
I highly recommend experiencing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo through the pages instead of on the screen as I’ve heard that much of the atmosphere is lost on screen.
Buy the book (US)