Saturday, June 18, 2011

Men who hate women

Never has a book made me experience one too many conflicting emotions side by side. Never has a book managed to infuriate, astound, shock, disgust, terrify yet charm me at the same time.
The international best-seller named The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo or Män som hatar kvinnor(as it is known in Swedish) deserves every bit of the craze and the recognition it has achieved worldwide since its first publication in 2005.
I have about zilch intention of giving away even a brief overview of the plot but for the sake of a review I must. Hence.....

Mikael Blomkvist is an investigative journalist and co-owner of the monthly magazine Millenium who had just lost a libel lawsuit filed against him by the Swedish business tycoon Hans-Erik Wennerström. His reputation at stake, he decides to distance himself from the magazine's management and publishing bodies. Around the same time he is offered a freelance assignment by Henrik Vanger, patriarch of the affluent Vanger family and CEO of Vanger Enterprises, which deals with cracking the mysterious case of his great-niece Harriet Vanger, who had disappeared without a trace 36 years ago. Facing a prison term of about 3 months and no better alternative in sight, Blomkvist decides to take up the job. 
At the same time we're introduced to the other protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, a 24-year old, introverted, delinquent-like woman whose outward physical appearance replete with piercings and tattoos, repel most people she comes in contact with. An ingenius hacker who is also blessed with a photographic memory, she has the ability of digging up little-known yet vital information about public figures and documenting them with uncanny precision. She is assigned to do a thorough background check on Blomkvist by an aide of Henrik Vanger's. Eventually in the chain of events, she comes to work as an assistant for Blomkvist and helps him solve the intriguing case of Harriet Vanger and uncover a long chain of gruesome murders and aggravated sexual assaults against women spread throughout Sweden in turn. 

To be honest, it is impossible to summarize an explosive novel like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo in a paragraph or two. It will merely serve as an insult to the genius of Stieg Larsson, who has masterfully crafted a story out of the lives of Swedish corporate honchos, sexual sadism, misogyny, investigative reporting, journalistic values with a little bit of love thrown in as well.
Hence it is a book you must read no matter how much you cringe at the graphic detailing of some of the crimes depicted. In any case you'll be compelled to read on as the mysteries continue to deepen till the very end.
Going by the writing style, Reg Keeland's translation seems to have managed to capture the underlying darkness of the story. I can only imagine how Larsson's original narration must have been like.

There's a multitude of characters in the book and almost each one of them have been portrayed meticulously through their action or inaction. But none of them stand out as much as Lisbeth Salander's does. 
A victim of a violent sexual crime herself, she exacts retribution from her perpetrator in the most fitting way possible without having to resort to the law in which she doesn't place any faith in. Lisbeth is someone who'll hit back even harder and take control of a situation rather than be intimidated.
She is socially awkward, incapable of developing long-term relationships with people or trust anyone, possibly due to the nature of her abnormal childhood years. She is perceived as a mentally retarded, repugnant woman by most and her inner brilliance always goes unnoticed. But then again Lisbeth is not one to care about what other people think of her. 
It is possibly because Blomkvist deals with her like he'd deal with any other normal human being, that Salander finds herself  unable to treat him with the same calculated coldness she had always shown towards others.
Coming to the fallacies of the book, I must admit I couldn't find any. I was a bit surprised to find a mild love story angle developing towards the end as love is always an unnecessary baggage in thriller novels. However I understood the author's need to humanize Lisbeth, or atleast offer her some sort of a balm to cast a calming effect on her tormented soul which she skilfully conceals underneath a mask of stoicism. Nothing more apt than love to achieve such a purpose.

With the help of an inherently macabre theme of sexual violence, Larsson has tried his best to make the readers comprehend the brutality of a crime like rape or sodomy. And this seems to have been the main purpose of this book, given that Lisbeth's character has been named after a girl whom Larsson witnessed being gang-raped as a young boy.
All in all, the book deserves a 5-star rating in my opinion. 
Thank you Stieg Larsson for deciding to publish the novels, otherwise the world would've missed out on one of the greatest trilogies in the mystery/thriller genre ever written.



Alka Gurha said...

Such an lucid review...will have to read it.Is it heavy read?

Samadrita said...

@Alka: Yes it is in a way. But a *MUST* read nonetheless. :)

Anoop said...

Girl who kicked the hornet's nest is the best among the series..

i dint keep tat book down til i finished it... its simply superb..

Pulkit said...

Now I can't wait to read it. I was going to read it last year when someone said it's too horrible to waste my time on. But now I think it deserves a chance anyway. Sadly, I can't order it because of the covers, so will have to go through the pain of reading an ebook.

nice review, I skipped the overview part though.

Blasphemous Aesthete said...

Awesome review. I will have to read it now, the next priority.
Thanks. :)

Blasphemous Aesthete

Samadrita said...

@Anoop: I'll take up the remaining two books as soon as I finish Kane and Abel.

@Pulkit: It is of course horrible, but in a completely different way. Read it yourself and find out. And never take anyone's word for either a movie or a book. Judge things yourself. :)

@BA: Do read it. :)

Prateek said...

Your comment was so apt.
I was searching for something interesting to order and now I must say thank you. :)

Siddhesh 'Ravan' Kabe said...

I have heard of this book... will get one quickly.... apologies did not read the italics part for did not want a spoiler.
Thanks for writing the spoiler in italics. :D

Guria said...

I just feel sad that we will never get to read another Larsson again... we can only wonder what the other seven books of the Millenium series would have been like/about.

Purba said...

Had read the Trilogy a year back. Felt the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was the best in the series. Like you said, the storyline repels you, disgusts you, yet you are unable to put the book down.

☆ ayu☆ said...

i am reading john marlowe's the world's most evil psychopaths ..haha..i will try this one too

RE:Dalja's Spring? i havent heard of it..can you tell me something about the plot pls?(≧ω≦。)

Samadrita said...

@Prateek: Yes you must. :)

@Sid: I always write the summary and *not* spoiler in italics. Well ok maybe sometimes I do. :P

@Guria: Whoa look who commented on my blog. :D *elated*
Yeah I wish he were alive too. Such a brilliant...brilliant writer!

Ritu said...

The first of the series disturbed me ... but then I was hooked! I read all the three books. Amazingly intricate but the tension and tempo never went low.

Quintessence Of Illusion said...

I actually loved the series...and what a lovely review you have written...

Giribala said...

Must read? If so, I might read it :-/

chirag said...

different post but very nice
i come first time on your blog
and its a nice blog
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domainhos said...

After reading your blog, now I am also getting interest to read that book. Surely I will read...
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Kunnu said...

You need to read the other two in the series to get the complete picture and its just an awesome feeling to complete the trio. A hard hitting, honest, clever and a terrific read..all of them..which most importantly has its heart at the right place. I read somewhere, that the author initially planned to write more novels involving Lisbeth and Mikael Blomkvist 's character, before he was found dead, amidst mysterious circumstances.

Perception said...

Loved the trilogy but the fault that i found with this book was, at places the narration got lost like the initial 4-5 pages and references to Amazon warriors did not make any sense to me..

All in all, a must read..

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