The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson

Don't read this book.

I feel so strongly about this, that I came out of my self-imposed bloggy exile to review it. The orginal title was "Men who Hate Women" and it's much more accurate than "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", especially considering the girl in question had many tattoos which were much more meaningful, the dragon tattoo was only mentioned once in the entire book, and it was mostly about a male financial journalist, anyway.

On the whole, it was a thriller that completely absorbed me, even if it was a bit long-winded at times. Set in Sweden, it's about Lisbeth Sander, a social outcast with an uncanny gift of finding out information about other people, and Michael Blomkvist, a discredited journalist convicted of libel against a huge corporation. But the story quickly devolves into violence, and doesn't come out again until the very end of the story. Lisbeth is a strong character, but not entirely believable, in my opinion. Her retribution against her attacker left me feeling just as sick as the original crimes. Men who hate women keep appearing throughout the story, and the hatred and violence was described in too much violence for me--I wish I could get the descriptions out of my head.

So why show this much evil in a book? What good can it possibly do? I think that the increasing openness of our culture has created the benefit of increasing awareness of crimes, but on the other hand it desensitizes us against all the ugliness out there. Even worse, I'm sure there were some readers who enjoyed reading detailed descriptions of the abuse (a high probability among the many copies sold across Europe and America) and who knows what it may have triggered in already-twisted people. One could argue that there is a sense of thwarted justice running through the book and most chapters opened with grim foreshadowing about statistics about domestic violence, assault, and victimization in Sweden. But at the end of the story, the plot turns again to financial intrigue and secret Swiss bank accounts, abandoning the heart of the book. Even though the bad guys eventually meet ruin, the legacy of violence remains.

So what if you're like me, who gets very upset by violence against women? You support International Justice Mission, support your local women's shelters, and don't read this book.