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Friday, March 5, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a very intricately layered novel. While the book mainly centers on two separate mysteries that are loosely connected due to the players involved, it also deals--almost casually--with everyday violence and especially violence against women. It is the frequency of this violence in the novel that makes it so disturbing.

The novel's most interesting character is Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is a social misfit with a core of anger simmering just below her surface. The author is coy about what it is that motivates Lisbeth but the reader is given some hints as to past events in Lisbeth's life that have led her to become the very antisocial person she has become. Her methods of dealing with events in her life are unorthodox, to say the least, but she is a very sympathetic character and I found myself both rooting for her and feeling her pain.

Aside from Lisbeth, the novel has a pretty vast cast of characters who are all very well-drawn and unique. Larsson's characters are very three dimensional and lifelike. His Vanger clan is filled with truly diverse characters.

The two mysteries at the core of the novel are both fascinating in their own right. One of the mysteries has to do with the disappearance of Harriet Vanger nearly fifty years previous while the other has to do with the activities of a prominent and much-lauded Swedish businessman. Larsson does a deft job of weaving these two stories together, even though the two have no real connection to one another and each would have been enough in and of itself to constitute a novel.

At its heart, this is a dark story of indifference to--if not acceptance of--violence. Whether Larsson is describing crimes against women or the rise of the Nazi movement in Sweden, Larsson is making a statement. The crimes he describes aren't exactly rare and I had a sense of anger that more or less permeates every page. It seems as though Larsson wants to draw attention to the ills of his country and I was left with the impression that perhaps Sweden--like many other nations--sometimes has the tendency to overlook its problems rather than acknowledge the horror of them.

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