Sunday, 11 April 2010

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - unconvincing.

Unconvincing. I recently watched Paul Merton's documentary about Hitchcock and the big man stated that he only ever made who-dunnit and he immediately regretted it. This was for the reason that the audience either say "I knew it was them" or say "that was a bit of a shock". No other emotional responses are possible, That's one of the problems of this book because for all the hype surrounding it is a basic piece of traditional crime writing. Much like the novels the protagonist reads throughout - although they are on the left-field side of that genre- mainly female writers. There is no experimentation with narrative structure.
The only other book which is mentioned is Laserman - a non fiction account of a Far-right Swede who acted as a sniper killing immigrants in the early 90s. This fits into the novel and Larsson as he was an active anti-fascist and member of the Fourth International. The setting and explanations of Swedish capitalism, politics and history were the bit I enjoyed most. Like all crime writing the novel involves a lot of exposition but this socio-political stuff was good. Doesnt really take any prisoners though for those unfamiliar with it - expect a lot of mentions of the Left Party, Olaf Palme etc. This is the best written part of the book In some ways similar to Iain Banks, not as good though. The family saga element of the book is also very closely related to Banks last novel.
But what undoes the book for me is the characters and the attitude to gender. Ostensibly it is an attempt to expose male violence towards women in all its forms. The Swedish title of the book was Men who hate women. Interesting to see if it would have been a worldwide phenomenon if they kept that title and didnt use the sexy imagery of the book cover. There are many examples of it - rape, domestic violence, flashing. However the scenes involving the most graphic attacks to me are observational rather than empathetic.
I do think male writers can expose violence against women - Jonathan Coe did it brilliantly in his last novel - but in a more subtle way. In this context they are gratuitous. I think this is because there is a revenge fantasy element to the book. Salander, the eponymous heroine, is a victim of all sorts of abuse but gets her own back in a sense. I think she comes across as a bit of a symbol or cipher for these broader themes. The male hero Michael an investigative journalist (jailed for libel which I didnt know they could do - so you do learn a bit about the Swedish legal system) also manages to sleep with 3 of the female characters with apparent ease which to me seemed unfeasible and tagged on. Given the book is meant to explore the relationships between the genders it falls down on that. T
The book falls away badly in the last two parts - with some virtually unreadable dialogue about techy stuff. There is a sad element with Larsson's death predating their publication but it does mean that there is no possibility or re-writing or editing. The exposing of the villain is disturbing to no real end. The last chapter is pure corn.
A massive hit - perhaps among techies in particular because it is really set in their world - but I think a very flawed piece of work. So absolutely no desire to see the film nor read the other parts of the trilogy.

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