Full disclosure: This is less a book review and more a suggestion that you not begin reading this book at all, since it bored me so badly that I had to stop reading it myself. And, I know, I know, this novel is old news and everyone else has moved on, but since the US film adaption is out next month, it’s back on my mind.
First, I realize it’s a bit unorthodox to review a book I wasn’t able (or willing) to finish reading, but if you’re anything like me, once you’ve begun a book, it’s hard to stop ““ even if you’re not enjoying it at all; which is why I hope to spare you that scenario and instead advise that you not begin reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo in the first place.
I fully admit that at page 125, I gave up, but I’ll still attempt to recount what I remember about those awful first 125 pages. [SPOILER ALERT for the easily spoiled contingent, of which I am a part] The novel’s main character, a man named Blomkvist, is the publisher of a Swedish magazine that covers current events and political scandals. He finds himself the defendant in a libel suit filed by a billionaire who probably becomes important later in the story and who owns a yacht. Blomkvist is found liable (though I think unjustly?) and gets a jail sentence (apparently in Sweden, libel is a crime rather than a tort) and steep fines. In the aftermath he’s contacted by the former CEO, a guy named Vanger, of an (I think) unrelated, or at least initially unrelated, bigwig Swedish corporation. Vanger invites Blomkvist to his compound on a fairly remote island and they have a really boring fifty page conversation about the disappearance of Vanger’s niece. You’d think the details of a mysterious disappearance would be interesting, but they’re not.
Also, Blomkvist hires an investigator named Salander; she dresses funky and has tattoos, this is meant to make her seem very interesting, but it doesn’t.
Also, Blomkvist has been having a long term affair with a colleague, this is perhaps meant to make Blomkvist seem like a complicated, tortured soul, it doesn’t.
That’s honestly the best I can do to sum up what I read since the book didn’t hold my attention at all. But for the sake of balance, I feel compelled to let you know that several of my friends have raved about this book. That said, all of them included the caveat that the novel gets off to a slow start.
To me, a slow start means the first 20-40 pages drag. Because of the raves, I was certainly willing to put up with a slow 20-40 pages, but the first 125 pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo drag. Actually, they don’t exactly drag so much as bump along half dead and confusedly, alternating back and forth from character to character and storyline to storyline without apparent continuity or reason. And the book’s setup (or what I can only guess was meant to be a setup) includes a ridiculous amount of detail about things that the average non-Swede (this book was translated from Swedish, I assume something’s been lost in the translation) would likely neither understand nor consider crucial to the story (like the make and model of small arms used in the Swedish Army). But then again, I never finished the story, so it’s possible, I suppose, that details like which Swedish cities have overpriced real estate in their industrial districts become very important to the plot (or a plot that I can only hope eventually develops, since by page 125, one had not yet emerged).
If you have a hard time giving yourself permission to stop reading books that you’re not enjoying, please consider avoiding this one altogether. You have my full support.