Friday, July 15, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Book Review : The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Author : Stieg Larsson
My Rating : 3 out of 5

Almost everyone in the world has read this book and it's 2 sequels. Everyone except me, till now. The books have been an enormous international best seller series, but I am rarely enthusiastic about best selling fiction. The hype is usually overdone.

As almost always is the case, a movie follows such success. And like always, once the movie is scheduled to be released, I am forced to read the book before I watch the movie. Because, as we all know, books are generally better than their movie incarnations. In this case, I can safely bet that the opposite will be true.

Why do I feel that way ? Because this book is way too long and the movie will have a good chance of doing the editor's job, that is so glaringly absent here. The author tragically died before his books were published. That may be part of the reason why the book couldn't be edited and also why these books became runaway success.

I had managed to stay away from knowing any details about the plot or the theme. Didn't read any reviews. In fact I purposefully avoided reading the back cover and the inside descriptions. I like to read a book or watch a movie without any preconceptions. In the same vein, I will keep my synopsis to a minimum for those few (if any) who haven't read the book.

The story is about a financial journalist Mikael Blomkvist, who has been tasked by a prominent industrialist to solve a decades old cold case of disappearance of a young girl from his extended family. He gets help from Lisbeth Salander, a social nutcase and the reason for the book's title. This book is story of that investigation and about a lot of personal details about the 2 main characters.

Larsson spends a whole lot of time establishing the characters and setting the stage. The book doesn't become a page-turner till you are nearly half-way through. I have no problem with character development, I like it. But here it's too much irrelevant details and mundane stuff that fill up the pages. The characterization felt very shallow and unrealistic. Blomkvist is an average middle aged man, and still all the women in the story - from 50+ year old to twenty something Salander - cannot stop themselves from getting into bed with him. Really ? The attitude of everyone in the book towards relationships is callously casual.

He also introduces us to an extremely large family and it was hard to keep track of all those names and their relationships to one another. He gives a picture of the family tree, but a map of the island (on which the story takes place) would have been more helpful.

The investigation is gripping, in spite of being tedious at a few places. And although the mystery is not impossible to guess, there are some surprises. That's the main part of the story, and fortunately the strongest. I wish the book was far more concentrated on it. After the investigation is over the author spends another 100 or so pages in closing a subplot that could have been left open. It's so weakly written and unbelievable, that I was just skipping over it to somehow finish the book.

As you can imagine I cannot offer a strong recommendation to read this book. But it will probably lend well to a movie depiction. We will know this December, when the Hollywood version starring Daniel Craig hits the theaters as "The Feel Bad Movie Of Christmas" ! The Swedish movie has been out for a while now.

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