Like everyone, I suppose, I find myself on occasion wondering if there is something wrong with me. After reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I couldn’t help but find myself trying so very hard not to be devastated. Why is it, Nadine, that you can’t just have a read and smile and be happy just like everyone else? They’re having way more fun that you are…I promise…
The thing is though – as much I would like to blame hype for my disappointment – I can scarcely explain why I should love one book for the exact reason that I find myself mildly disgruntled with another.
Let me say first that like many, I set out to read the first book of Stieg Larsson’s widely acclaimed trilogy because I knew that he was dead. Macabre perhaps, but as a writer myself the idea that such a revolting thing should happen just before the world falls in love with you is simply ridiculous. How unfair that a man should hand over the carefully put together manuscripts of a work that surely took up years of his time only to die before reaping the rewards of his efforts! This pains me.
I’m a crime fiction junkie. I freely admit this. And I am quite sure it puts me on the bottom end of the cool scale but I stopped worrying about such things when I was about ten years old so I don’t really care about any of that. The point is – I devour crime fiction novels in the same way a bored housewife might devour romance novels. The only problem is that because I read them ALL the time, I very seldom come across a book whose ending I don’t predict during the first couple of chapters. Finding out I am right is of course satisfying in itself, but it is also sometimes incredibly disappointing. I found this disappointment especially infuriating with this novel. It took scarcely a third of the book for me to predict the “ending”. One part I worked out within the first two pages. And when I discovered exactly how spot-on my mind was I was actually pissed off. What was even more infuriating was that the answers to the mystery of the story are concluded a hundred pages from the end of the book. So there I sat – pissed as hell that I had guessed correctly – and I still had to wade my way through the last bit of wind-down which then just seemed to take forever before it finally fizzled out and let me go.
Don’t get me wrong, the man is without a doubt talented. And the story – despite my disappointment – is brilliant. Crime novels (the ones I read at least) generally lack the extreme sophistication with which this particular story was written. That in itself is a nice change (although not that much different in sophistication from a John Grisham or a Jeffrey Archer novel) but does it really deserve all the hype? My fiancé thinks that perhaps Stieg Larsson is really sitting on a boat in the Cayman Islands drinking pina coladas and congratulating himself on his fake death since it has made him his fortune. I quite like that idea (flip if not why not!) but I don’t buy it. I do think his death played a big part in his fame though.
I remember when Prison Break came out and everyone went kind of gaga over it. I finally rented the dvds to see what the fuss was about and could not do much more than shrug my shoulders and go “meh, okay then,” and then forget about it. And why is that? Most probably it is because I grew up reading Sydney Sheldon and John Irving and God knows who else. Brilliant stories are not so few that these kinds of things should be that impressive. Not as impressive as people seem to think they are at least. The cover of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo boasts of intriguing characters and yet I find this to be a gross exaggeration. Yes, Lisbeth Salander is perhaps adorable (or something) but I can’t help but be annoyed at the insinuation that she suffers from Asperger Syndrome. I do admit this was a character observation and not a narrator observation, but if I’m not mistaken the line between narrator and character blurred in many places so you’re never quite sure what you’re supposed to believe about what. A case of lost in translation perhaps?
Also I found the flippant approach to sex that seemed to be a shared character trait between all prominent females in the book a little disconcerting. Is this how Swedish women are? Or is this how Larsson wishes they were? Because there certainly seemed to be a bit of a void where a lead up should maybe have been. His male protagonist just doesn’t really seem to be the kind of guy that random women suddenly take their clothes off in front of. Maybe I’m a prude. But really I can’t imagine that a boring conversation and half a cup of tea should always lead to sex. But then I have to wonder if the consistent sex throughout the book isn’t perhaps what has gained the series it’s mass appeal.
Larsson’s own character can kind of be felt throughout the book too, and I do quite like that. It’s something to smirk about perhaps – a kind of I-read-your-book-and-now-I-sort-of-know-you thing. It’s so easy to read a book and simply accept it as a story, but so much shines through if you pay attention.
All-in-all I always find it fascinating to enjoy something that has only proved to disappoint me – and by that I mean that I didn’t find the book interesting so much as I found it interesting that other people find it interesting. Unfortunately I am now faced with having to read the rest of the trilogy and I find myself balking at the thought. I will likely force my way through them because I need to appease my curiosity (does it get batter?) but right now all I want to do is grab onto an old faithful and blasély coast through the pages of something that will meet my expectations…