Growing up, I read constantly. I would read from the time I got up until I went to bed during the summers and during school breaks. During the school year, I would read at the end of every class, read as I walked between classes, and read during recess. My mother had to tell me to stop reading at the dinner table. I would often read with a flashlight, hunched over underneath the covers. It wasn’t very comfortable, but I knew at some point my mother would tell me to go to bed, but how was I supposed to go to bed when I had a book to read? Sorry, Momma. Love you <3
Recently, I’ve had trouble reading like I used to. It started in college, but has been worse lately for some reason. Even though I know I love to read and I know that reading helps me feel better when I’m down, I just couldn’t bring myself to read. I’m trying to actively read again. I started back with a book recommended to me by Soleil, the friend we visited in San Francisco. I then moved to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. I have read the book before, which I hoped would help me not give up reading. I’m happy to report that it worked.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium series, which follows the lives of Mikael Blomkvist, a financial journalist, and Lisbeth Salander, a personal investigator. The series is set in Sweden with most of the action taking place on a fictional island a few hours north of Stockholm. Fresh off of a court case which found him guilty of libel, Mikael is hired by Henrik Vanger, a rich old industrialist and the patriarch of the large Vanger family. Officially hired to write a chronicle of the Vanger family, his real objective is to investigate the disappearance of Henrik’s great-niece, Harriet. At once a thriller, mystery novel, and social commentary on the treatment of women in Sweden, Larsson’s work is compelling.
The characters in Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo feel real and relatable, even to those of us who are not private investigators, journalists, or wealthy patriarchs. They have real struggles, secrets, family issues, flaws, and strengths. You may find yourself cheering them on, feeling angry for them, feeling angry towards them, and crying, whether they cry along with you or not. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the characters in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are not unrealistic. Given that, I feel the need to give you some warnings.
CW : Violence against women
The majority of the novel is not happy. It does not always feel that everything will be tied up in a neat little bow. In fact, you could argue that it doesn’t have a “happy” ending or wrap things up the way you had hoped at all. There are a number of characters that are inarguably despicable human beings. This is not a matter for debate. Before each section of the book, Larsson shares a fact or statistic about violence against women in Sweden. As much as this novel is still a work of fiction, I worry that situations similar to those portrayed within the book’s pages are all too common in the world. I must warn you that the gruesome murder of several women, sexual violence against women, and torture are all discussed. They are not taken lightly and are never shown in a positive light, but they are discussed. If you have trauma in your past, please be careful as some sections may be triggering for some readers.
All of that being said, the novel is a wonderful read. It is gripping, fast paced, and never boring. The characters are compelling and real, the action keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the mystery will have you guessing right up to the very end. Often in a novel, there seems to be a singular conflict that can lead to the book getting stale. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has a handful of conflicts and story angles that, while connected, feel unique, fresh, and engaging. The book often left me breathless and will undoubtedly cause some reflection into your own life, the women in your life, and the current state of affairs regarding women’s rights and violence against women. I urge everyone to read it. 5/5