Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was a well-written novel with interesting characters and a compelling story. It started off like gangbusters with an intriguing first few pages describing an old man receiving a mysterious gift in the mail, continued ripe with suspense and intrigue, and ended with heartbreak. I should really have liked it.

However, I didn't like it, and I wouldn't recommend it to another reader.

First and foremost, it was very lurid. I stopped watching the television shows CSI and Law & Order because every crime seemed to involve a young, attractive woman who was raped and/or murdered in gross, horrifying ways. (As though there is any other way to be raped and/or murdered....)  The excruciating details of these crimes laid bare in 42 minutes made me ill.

Such was the case with this book. Every section title page included a statistic regarding violence against women, so we had an idea that more would be revealed. Two main female characters were brutalized, and as the story unfolded, so did the immensity and scope of their brutalization. To their credit, neither accepted the mantle of "victim," and each found a way to make herself a "survivor."

The number of women who were not survivors, however, is staggering. The range and the luridness of these crimes literally disgusted me. Readers have to plow through this information to get to the end, and it is a terrible path to have to take. I didn't need to read such tragic stories.

Author Steig Larrson, may he rest in peace, touts Lisbeth as quite the hero. I suppose she is — but at such a cost that I wish he hadn't created her. Maybe she isn't a victim, and never will be, but what she experienced still broke my heart.

The rest of the book deals with finance, corporate greed and corruption, romance, family intrigue, mystery, history, journalistic integrity, Swedish law and the love of Apple products. Oh, and computer hacking. And possibly autism. Are all of these important? Sure, but I couldn't get past the awfulness of the crimes to which the women in this book were subjected.

It also seemed interminable: the book was much like the Energizer bunny and I just so wanted someone to find a way to thwart it. Just when I thought the violence toward women couldn't get any worse, it did. (By the way, men were brutalized, too, and it was quite terrible as well.)

I recently discovered the Swedish title originally was Män som hatar kvinnor (which translates to Men who hate women), and it made the book more intriguing — until I got to the horrors, then I understood exactly what the title meant. It didn't make the revelations in the book any less awful, or more intriguing.

Stieg Larrson wrote two sequels to this book, both of which are on bookshelves around the world (and selling like hotcakes). I won't read either of them.


  1. Katie, like you, I am stunned at the success with which they have met.

    Most of the criticism for this book is about the plodding writing and unimaginative language (which I attributed to poor translation).

    Have we become so desensitized that this kind of book is applauded?

  2. I could live my life happily without ever having any contact with the brutal underbelly of human behavior. Call me Pollyanna, but I just have no need to explore it and I feel brutalized after seeing people blasted away and blood spattering all over the place in movies. It doesn't seem to bother other people. Hence, the popularity of this book. Blech. A lot of stuff I don't need to read about/don't need to investigate/don't find interesting or thrilling to hear about. Aside from all that, I'll add that I didn't like any of the characters in this book. I'm not interested in their future icky exploits. I don't care!


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