June 2010

There are certain people who light up a room the moment they walk into it.  There are certain characters that tickle the imagination, engage the little grey cells, and raise the blood pressure the moment they enter a story. The girl with the dragon tattoo, aka Lisbeth Salander, is just such a character.  You may have met her type before: bepierced and beleathered gamine, socially unskilled and electronically brilliant, alternately fierce and sullen, not altogether reliable, or rather, neurotically distrustful.  A bit of a super-anti-hero, really, and one that her besotted boss worries is ‘the perfect victim’.

Publicly disgraced financial reporter Mikael Blomkvist doesn’t have many alternatives when he’s hired by a very rich, very old man to write the family history and solve a 40 year old case.  All of the Book Circle were grateful for the landscape-wide family tree; it was consulted frequently as the list of characters grew, interacted and gossiped about each other.  Described (enviously?) by a certain gentleman I know as God’s gift to lonely women, Blomkvist is a diligent and gifted journalist, frustrated by fate and his backwater exile. James Bond with a social conscience.

Unfortunately we won’t ever know how much of Blomkvist’s personality is mirrored in the author, also an investigative journalist, editor-in-chief of a financially struggling magazine, and expert on anti-democratic extremist groups.  Stieg Larsson died of a heart attack at 50, shortly after submitting his Millennium Trilogy to a publisher. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, recently made into a movie, is the first in the trilogy and was published posthumously.  After a hand-to-mouth existence as a freelance writer, these exciting and complex whodunits were to be his retirement fund.

The runaway popularity of Larsson’s books has sparked a perhaps worthwhile discussion.  Some consider his main characters to be feminist standard-bearers, while there are critics who find the violence against women, described quite graphically, exploitative; and vigilante justice furnishes a visceral satisfaction, but should it be applauded?  And then there’s the sex; social conscience or no, can an emotionally detached James Bond really satisfy a woman?  Though not big on landscape, the author also highlights a few aspects of Swedish society different from our own: their coffee addiction, hearty breakfasts and adult social welfare protection program.

If you are interested in a good summer read, 10 of 12 in our Book Circle recommend The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  Personally, I suggest you pick it up when your calendar is clear; it might be a sleepless night.

After the Summer break, we will meet again on Thursday, 2nd September to discuss a book yet to be determined.

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