The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

Posted 22 July, 2010 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 18 Comments

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Title: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Author: Stieg Larsson
Published: 2005; Pages: 590
Audio: 16 hrs, 20 min
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Rating: 4/5

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a complex mystery and thriller that takes place in modern day Sweden. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist, in the midst of a professional criminal scandal, is approached by Henrik Vanger, an aging industry tycoon, to write his biography and while in the process solve the mystery of his missing niece who disappeared in the 1960s. When Mikael begins uncovering facts and leads that no one could have ever imagined, he calls in the help of Lisbeth Salander—the girl with the dragon tattoo.

Reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was much like being on a rollercoaster–the plot would thicken and complicate and there would be a quick swooooosh as I rushed down the hill but the tredge to get back up to the next plot high point was arduous and taxing.  Larsson covers so much ground in this book–from racism including Nazism, to capitalism and enterprise, to rape and murder, to the legal nuances of Sweden–from the prison system to welfare, etc etc.  As soon as I found myself turning pages faster and faster, all of a sudden I’d come to a screeching halt as Larsson would move onto a tangent that sometimes lasted for more than I could read in one sitting.  I’ve heard people chalk this up to him being a foreign writer, but I’ve read plenty of foreign authors.  I wonder more, if it might have to do with the editing process after Larsson’s death?

Before I read this book, my dad told me it was unreadable–the language and writing so foreign he couldn’t get into it.  I do not agree with this statement.  The book is very readable, but it might take some patience to get into the story.  I’ve also heard people say that they’re scared of the violence in this book.  The Swedish (original) title for the book is Men Who Hate Women and this is a theme that certainly runs throughout the book.  Mikael, in his search for Harriett uncovers some very gruesome murders, and there are some other scenes of sexual abuse that I could see turning people off, but I didn’t feel that it was gratuitous. 

I find myself very much on middle ground with this one–the mystery portion was enough to keep me interested for 590 pages but I think it could have been cut down substantially.  I originally read this book for my book club meeting several months ago and we had a great discussion and most of the members liked the book–for one the violence was too much.  Even though I left the meeting with lukewarm feelings, I listened to this book on audio recently and many of my original complaints–too long and tangential–went away with listening.  The flow was much smoother on audio, which is something I don’t normally encounter with audiobooks.  I’m not in a huge hurry, but I do see myself continuing on with the trilogy sooner or later.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the first in Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy.” An interesting tidbit—the three books in the series were published after Stieg Larsson’s death in 2004. I am curious to know about the editing process—if Larsson had been working with an editor before he died or if everything was edited posthumously. If you know any information about this, please fill me in! I’m always curious about how works are edited without the author.

Have you read this book?  What did you think?  If you haven’t read it yet, do you think you will?

I am an Amazon Associate.  If you buy The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo or any other product from Amazon through this review, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.  Thank you!

18 Responses to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson”

  1. I can’t even imagine reading this one. I’m sure the violence would get to me. I’ve had several people tell me that I definitely don’t want to read this, since they know my tastes well enough!

  2. I’ve heard mixed things about this book. Lots of great reviews, lots of not so great reviews. I’m torn. I’d like to read it, but again, that’s a lot of story to invest myself in if I’m going to hate it.

    Maybe I’ll see the movie and then decide if the story is interesting enough.

    Thanks for the review, Trish. This book definitely has me intrigued.


  3. I’m fairly new to your blog. I really liked your reivew.

    I just finished reading this book and the rest of the Trilogy in the past month. Having known the gist of the story going into my reading (and knowing the original title), I wasn’t surprised at all by the violence and really just the tattoo scene gave me any pause.

    I thought the book felt slow in the first 50 pages or so, but then got much better. It probably could have been shortened, but the characters (especially Slander) was so intriguing, I didn’t mind the length.


  4. I’m convinced that I’m going to be the last person in the world to read this book. I’ve had it for a year and a half and I’m not sure why I haven’t picked it up yet.

  5. I do own the first two books in the series, but i have yet to read them. I didn’t realise they contained so much violence. I am pleased I now know that before reading them.

  6. The tangents get worse as the series goes on. I know nothing about the editorial process, but my theory is that as the books became popular, they cut less and less from the next one. Unfortunately.

  7. Definitely a great review! I have heard good and bad about it, but the way you described it really helped me figure out why all the mixed reviews. I do still want to read it so we’ll see how it goes for me!

  8. I read the first book but am listening to the second book, and I agree, it is easier on audio. The lengthy descriptions that seemed tedious while reading the physical book are more visual and interesting when listening.

  9. *Amanda – No, I don’t think you’d like this one. I think the writing and some of the “grit” would get to you more than the violence, though.

    *Paxton – I felt really in the middle on this one–didn’t love it or hate it. But I did enjoy listening to it. If you enjoy audio, maybe that’s the way to go?

    *Tediousandbrief – Thanks for popping by! :) I think I was more stunned by the “chamber” than the tattoo scene, but I didn’t think the book was overly graphic. Lisbeth is a fascinating character, for sure–guess she carries over into all three books?

    *Bermuda – I don’t know if you’ll be the LAST! :) I hope you enjoy it when you get to it.

    *Vivienne – I think everyone reacts to the violence in different ways. My coworker in book club was very distrubed but I think it’s the type of thing that isn’t uncommon to thrillers/mysteries.

    *Softdrink – Don’t tell me that! I was hoping that the editing would get better as the series goes on.

    *Jenny – It seems that the violence is what gets to people–for me it was more the tangential nature of the writing–I kept thinking “Stick to the story!” :)

    *Charley – I’m not sure if I’ll listen to the rest or pick them up. I kind of like reading a book and then listening to it–just did so with Hunger Games.

  10. I just checked this book out from the library. I am going to give a shot even though it is different from what I normally read. I have my hesitations for sure. :)

  11. I haven’t read this one yet but I am feeling like the uncool kid now because they are everywhere! Everytime I look at someone reading a book, 9 times out of 10 it’s from this series. Somehow I just don’t think it would really be a good fit for me. Someday I’ll probably read it. I really read your review to try to see if I was missing something and I thought…nope, not really my normal kinda read! Great review though!

  12. Even though I’ve just bought the second and the third in this trilogy, I can’t say I loved the first. It was unspeakably violent, and I love a good mystery/thriller/crime novel. However, I’m intrigued by the girl with the dragon tattoo…her story is yet untold to me, and I find myself wanting to know more about her. Plus, I want to be aware of what the general public is reading even though I ask myself, “When were the unwashed masses ever right?” :)

  13. I’ve heard so much rave reviews about this series, but yet I haven’t read any of them (though I’ve them all in my pile)! I think one reason is the thick volume of them all, they kinda intimidate me, hehe.

  14. I was really disappointed with this one, I was one of the people who found the language horrible. I couldn’t get past that. Ah well, at least there’s actually a series that I’m not continuing, that’s a good thing!! :-)

  15. I absolutely loved this book and had no trouble with the translation. This has by far been my favorite thriller that I’ve read so far. I love Lisbeth Salander. I think she’s one of my favorite female protagonists of all-time.

    I definitely recommend the film as well. I saw it twice in the theaters!

  16. I have wanted to read this for so long but just couldn’t make myself pay for it. Now my mom’s reading it so I’ll get it one of these days. Although I hesitate to think what my mom (who’d in her late 70’s) is going to think of it!