Amidst the surging number of crimes relating to violence against women, reading the suspenseful mystery of the crime fiction The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo may hit close to home for several readers. Authored by the late Swedish writer and journalist Stieg Larsson and published posthumously in 2005, the International bestseller is the first part of his Millennium series. The book was originally titled ‘Men Who Hate Women’ in Swedish; however, its English translation changed its name. Quillopia's book review of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo tried presenting a balanced but detailed insight of the book.
In The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the story begins with Henrik Vanger, an older man who receives a mysterious, framed, exotic flower each year on his birthday for thirty-six years. What is especially worrying him is that sharing framed flowers was a tradition he had with his grand-niece, Harriet, who disappeared around the same time the flowers started arriving. Vanger suspects that it is her killer who taunts him by sending those flowers after her.
The story mainly revolves around two characters. First, Mikael Blomkvist, a publisher, loses a libel case against a billionaire industrialist under shady circumstances and faces heavy penalties for the same. Seizing the opportunity, Henrik Vanger hires Blomkvist to solve the mystery of his grand-niece's disappearance, promising him with a large sum of money and evidence against the industrialist in return.
The other protagonist is Lisbeth Salander, aka 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.’She is violent, troubled, and according to Blomkvist, has Asperger’s syndrome. However, she also has a brilliant mind, something that makes her the ideal candidate for both searchings for Harriet’s killer and seeking justice for Blomkvist.
“Much stronger boys in her class soon learned that it could be quite unpleasant to fight with that skinny girl. Unlike other girls in the class, she never backed down, and she would not for a second hesitate to use her fists or any weapon at hand to protect herself. She went around with the attitude that she would rather be beaten to death than take any shit.” Stieg Larsson.
One of the major themes that the book revolves around is sexual violence against women, and it does not shy away from describing them explicitly. Most male characters in the book are misogynistic, and their deeds and sufferings are described in gruesome ways that may not bode well with sensitive readers. For instance, after Salander becomes a victim of rape at the hands of a man in a position of authority, she takes a form of vengeance that is as horrifying as it is satisfactory. Similarly, at other points in the book, rapes of different women have been elucidated at length, intentionally making the reader uncomfortable, highlighting the reality of the issue.
“I am a rapist and a sadistic pig,' if you get that tattoo removed, I will carve it into your forehead, do you understand?” Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
While the plot highlights an important issue, the book lacks the fast-pace of a good thriller. It starts off slow and continues to be so for a good number of pages, with the protagonists leading separate lives without having been acquainted with their task of solving the mystery. If someone is looking for a page-turning action novel, then this may not be the book for them. Instead, it is a book to be read at leisure, patiently waiting for the mystery to arrive and be unravelled.
Moreover, the subplots of the book, such as Blomkvist’s ordeal with the billionaire industrialist, make way for an overall convoluted storyline, because of which they could not receive their due attention and justice. Perhaps the book should have focused on one story at a time, making it more steady-paced and exciting than it is now.
For readers who can digest realistic stories that show a mirror to society, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is an essential read that would enlighten them on the plight of many women in the world. However, Quillopia opinionated, it is not the best book for those who are looking for fast action thrillers or who cannot read graphic scenes in a novel.
By Soumya Mukhija