I’ve just blown through the late ‘s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire, the first two books in his Millennium Trilogy. Larsson died before any of the books were published; apparently, he wrote the first two before even sending them to a publisher. I’m not generally into Swedish literature, although I’m slowly appreciating Sweden for its contributions, most recently in the form of Låt den rätte komma in (Let the Right One In, a Swedish Vampire film, which is excellent and unique, but not necessarily for the faint of heart!), but I grew up loving Astrid Lindgren‘s Pippi Longstocking books.
Larsson’s character Lisbeth Salander is one of the most compelling characters I’ve read in awhile. She’s hard to dissect, and rarely does what I expect of her. He describes his inspiration for Salander as
…a grown up Pippi Longstocking, a dysfunctional girl, probably with attention deficit disorder who would have had a hard time finding a regular place in the “normal society.”
This absolutely describes Lisbeth. She’s difficult to sum up, which is kind of the point. She does not fit into any type of box or category. She’s the most intelligent character you’ll ever come across–at least in raw intelligence and street smarts. She’ll do anything she possibly can to take care of herself, and no one will stand in her way. She has nearly zero social skills, but she’s the best researcher about which anyone could ever dream, which is how she gets involved with Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist, an investigative journalist hired to look into the 40-year-old disappearance of a wealthy businessman’s niece (his nickname comes from another of Astrid Lindgren’s characters: Kalle Blomquist–a boy detective). The mystery thickens, and nothing is as it seems. It gets pretty intense, but it works out well.
The second book delves deeper into Lisbeth’s past. Just as many questions are raised as are answered, and another mystery must be solved. We learn again that Lisbeth will do nothing that you expect, and it gets even scarier when she’s backed into a corner. She hates men who hate women–this is one of the strongest themes of the trilogy so far. Actually, the actual translation of the original Swedish edition (the name was changed upon translation) is Män som hatar kvinnor – “Men Who Hate Women.” The novels deal with crimes against women–this is often pretty brutal, in a few different situations.
Really, the story is solidly good, and for me at least, rather unique and intriguing. The first novel contains some violence of an intense, brutal nature (sexual violence), but it’s important to the plot, and its repercussions flow through to the second book. They are self-contained books, so you’re not left hanging, but you kind of do want to see what Lisbeth is going to do next. If you even remotely are intrigued by her in the first book, the second book dives even deeper into her. It’s very different than the first. It’s more fast paced and racier than the first. It’s gone in a direction that I didn’t see coming at all. I can’t wait for the third–The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest.
The film adaptations have already hit Europe (the first premiered while I was in London), and are slowly making their way to the U.S. I recently watched the first, and it was very good!