When I first announced my intention to read these books, the reactions of you lot ranged from 'oh yeah, I've never read them either' to 'OH MY GOD, DON'T DO IT!' and this was not what I was expecting because have you SEEN the praise heaped on these books? 'Best thriller in years', they said. 'Unmissable', they also implied. Obviously I'm just paraphrasing here, because these books have now been graciously rehomed in various charity shops, but that's basically the gist of it.
So what did I think? Something in the middle, I guess. There was a lot I haaaaated about them (and I mean really and truly hated. Abhorred. Couldn't even stand) but there were also things that made me think they weren't so bad, after all. I think it's important to note also that I read them in packing breaks, when I probably wouldn't have been able to focus on a book with even the slightest bit of smartness to it (sorry, Steig) so that has to be taken into account of the things I thought about them.
I'm going to do a teeny review of each book at the end (because, you know, I know you were all worried that wasn't going to happen) but here are a few generals:
- I kind of love Lisbeth Salander- She's probably not a great role model or anything, but she's without a doubt the most interesting character in the books, and she's flawed and broken in a way that women characters aren't often allowed to be. It's worth noting that a lot of the other characters are super one-dimensional, so Lisbeth really stands out as especially interesting, but whatever. I basically just wanted to read about her doing stuff.
- I kind of really hate Mikael Blomkvist- Ok, I didn't to begin with. He's fine as a character, a bit boring and plot-moving on-ish, but his heart's basically in the right place, and his morals align with mine and whatnot. BUT. I hate him. I haaaaaate him. He is the laziest written character because he has no flaws, and (most annoyingly) every woman he ever meets wants to have sex with him. There is literally not a female character he comes across who doesn't want to have sex with him, and by the third book, it was just like 'oh, you've just introduced a single female character? I WONDER WHO SHE'LL BE BONING NEXT CHAPTER!' No good reason is given for Blomkvist being catnip for women, and it freaks me out that Larsson probably basically wrote him as wish fulfilment for himself. But UGH.
- But the feminism, though- So the Swedish title of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is actually The Men Who Hate Women (bit different, then) and I think the way the books were marketed* over here actually says a lot about us, but the point is that there is a LOT about the men who hate women. There's a whole lot. There are sexual harassment subplots, and countless attacks against women, and it's made crystal clear that this shit is NOT OK. Which, obviously, I appreciate, even whilst I was shocked that shit like this happens in Sweden, because if Sweden isn't safe for women, then what do we have?!
- That writing, though- It's not the best writing. For the most part it's readable, but a lot of the dialogue is really bad, and I honestly believe that about half of the third book should have just been edited right away. Just... No. I don't know if I can blame some of it on the translation, or if it just is genuinely bad writing, but beautiful prose is not something you're going to find in these books. Just... In case that's what you were expecting.
So far, this seems like I'm pretty evenly for and against it, BUT my hatred for Blomkvist really outweighs my love for Salander (I haaaaaate him!) and I don't know if the clearly female-positive story lines are enough to balance out the really bad writing. I just don't know how I feel, so let's look at each book individually shall we? ('Oh yes, lets!', I hear you cry)
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
This was definitely my favourite of the three books, because it was a fairly self-contained story and it was fun trying to solve the mystery of the girl who disappeared from an island that was impossible to get off of secretly. Less fun were the parts with the rapes, but I feel like they weren't really gratuitous and were really there to serve the story. There was, however, a lot of unnecessarily complicated economic crap, including this 20 page section right near the beginning of the book that I'd imagine has tripped up nearly everyone who's read it. Note to writers: DON'T put a boring, rambling crap part right at the start of your book, what is wrong with you?! And then a similar thing happened at the end- the interesting part of the story was solved about 100 pages from the end, and then somehow the crap part was back and whyyyyy? But, overall, I liked it? So, I moved on to:
The Girl Who Played With Fire
I didn't dislike The Girl Who Played With Fire. I mean, sure it starts off with about 100 pages of things that have nothing to do with the story (seriously, was there an editor of these books? Because it sure as shit didn't feel like it) and sure there are loads of convenient last minute rescues and things when Larsson didn't want to kill a character off, but there was a lot more Salander! And eventually (and I mean, after literally hundreds of pages) you get to the crux of Salander's childhood, and that was kind of (hmm... very kind-of) worth waiting for. Plus it's all actiony and fairly exciting and I'd come this far so I figured, might as well read:
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest
Annnnnd, what a mistake that was. This book had pretty much nothing to it. All The Things kind of get solved at the end of The Girl Who Played With Fire, and THIS book is pretty much Mikael Blomkvist showing how much smarter he is than A WHOLE TEAM OF MEN and also having sex with yet more women (obviously). Don't get me wrong, Salander still manages to solve a lot of her problems, and everyone else's, for that matter, but there are a LOT of pages for NOTHING new to happen in (I mean, stuff happens. But it basically just wraps up the second book. In SEVEN HUNDRED PAGES. God.) But, I mean, I kept reading it, so... Can it have been that bad? Maybe not.
Ha, remember when I said I was going to 'review' each of the books separately? Obviously I meant, 'tell you my feels about each of them' because reviewing? What's that?! But anyway. The crux of the matter is this: I'm pretty glad to have gotten these out of the way, and I'm really glad I read them before I moved so I didn't have to lug them up all the stairs. They're absolutely not the best books in the world, and I wouldn't want to read them again, but they did keep me entertained at a time when I didn't think I wanted to read anything, AND (and this is really important) if there was another book (and I believe there were supposed to be quite a few more) I'm pretty sure I've have read that one too. So. Take from that what you will.
Oh man, a whole post about Swedish books, and look what I nearly forgot!
It's ok. All is well now.
*for 'marketed', read 'the way they changed the title and that'