I am not sure if it is really possible to both love and hate something in the same breath, but I seem to have achieved this state when it comes to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I finished reading the book over a week ago and I am still having problems really putting into solid thoughts of what I thought about it. On one hand I hated reading the book. On the other hand I really liked the story.
I think the first time I saw the book I was in the airport on the way to Vegas. This was a few years ago, and the title struck some chord in my brain, so I am certain I had heard even at that point that this was supposed to be a good book. We were looking for a book for the husbeast though, so I really didn't give it a second glance.
Sometime last year someone I know told me that it was actually an amazing book. In fact they told me the whole series was amazing, though they warned that the second book was about the same characters but about a different case, whereas the second and third books were more closely related. At this point I decided that my curiosity was piqued and I put them on my amazon list.
Low and behold I got the first two books for Christmas, and while they were fairly far back in my stack of books to be read, I was happy to just have them. I didn't intend on starting them until I had all three books. I hate getting into a series and then having to stop because I am missing a book, especially if it is the last book. After I flew through the Percy Jackson series and the Hunger Games trilogy, I for some strange reason decided that I had to read this series next despite having plenty of other things to read.
The prologue to the book was promising. It spoke of an intriguing mystery that I was very eager to see unfold before us. It was a great way to start; it grabbed onto me and made me want to read more. Sadly the first chapter of the book held nothing of interest, and was in fact incredibly painful to read. To say I felt cheated is an understatement.
I was suddenly reminded of House of the Seven Gables by Hawthorn. I read it in high school, and the prologue was great, promising a story of mystery and intrigue which makes you really want to read the book. Honestly I don't remember what the rest of the book was about other than it was not the ghost story I was promised.
I felt as cheated by Hawthorn as I was feeling from Larsson. Had I been duped again? If the entire book was going to be like the first chapter there is no way I would be able to read it. Dry and boring doesn't even begin to cover it. It was full of completely useless details. What could have been summarized effectively in a few paragraphs or a page at most was stretched into an entire chapter.
So I did what any person of our time would do, I went straight to Facebook and asked what I had gotten myself into. Sadly I did not receive one positive response. Instead what I got was comment after comment about how people regretted wasting their time reading the book. Everyone was saying that they just didn't get why the book was supposed to be amazing. One person went so far as to tell me the exact page number that interesting stuff started happening, which was still a few chapters off for me.
I was disheartened to say the least, and was seriously considering taking the repeated suggestion of putting the book on my shelf and just watching the movies. It was tempting, very very tempting, but I decided to give it one more try.
The next few chapters were better. They were still not what I was looking for, but at least I could read them without wanting to stab myself in the eye. I will take the small victories. I was still considering just watching the movies, but by this point I felt committed to the books.
As I read I found a method which made reading easier, and made me enjoy the story more; I simply skimmed over and skipped any point when the author started rambling about things that made no difference at all. Any time the main character went to the store and we would have to sit and read out every single useless item they bought including the prices, I skipped it. Every time anyone ate I skipped it because I don't care that they ate an open-faced boiled egg and caviar sandwich* with coffee and then smoked a cigarette.The author just loved putting in these long passages of mundane banal information that actually had zero impact on the story.
I also found that all of the foreign names and references were confusing and distracting. Again I realize it is written by a guy in Sweden about Swedish places and events, but it doesn't make it easy for me to read as an American. It took me a while to figure out what was money, and what was their main highway, and all the other little things that I assume would have been obvious to a reader who had ever spent time in Sweden.
Once I filtered out all the useless information and confusing Swedish terminology, I found that story that everyone, other than my friends, had fallen in love with. I am not certain I fell in love with the story, but I found it highly intriguing. I even, by the end, was made to care about the secondary storyline about the journalists libel case and how he was solving it. I think I would have liked to have seen more focus on the bad guys. I felt once we got to them it was sort of rushed through their motivations. I mean seriously we spent and entire chapter on rehashing a story that started the events in motion for the secondary story line, could we not dedicate that much effort to the serial killers who are actually interesting?
When it was all said and done I enjoyed the book. I still hated reading it, but the story was enough to make it not a total loss. I did go watch the movie in Swedish and I was fairly disappointed. I am actually glad I didn't watch it first. For a movie that was said to be amazing, I found it to be passable at best. I found that I was not keen on the changes they made from the book, and I also found that they totally lost the charm of the male lead. I also think that there was a lack on intensity in the female lead. The actress was good at staring intently, but I felt there was not much going on behind her staring. I am hoping the American version is more satisfying.
I am trying to read the second book, The Girl Who Played With Fire, now. I have found it thus far to be better than the first book, although that might be because I know that I have to skip over large chunks to enjoy it. I have to admit I went and read the summary on wikipedia because I had this sneaking suspicion that the first quarter of the book would have nothing to do with the rest of the book, which would just piss me off since it was actually interesting. I am pretty sure my suspicions are correct, and now I again feel betrayed and don't want to continue reading. We will see if I do.
So overall I would have to say don't read this book unless you really enjoy reading banal details or are really good at identifying and skipping over the useless mundane facts that this book is overrun with. Good story, but almost not worth the frustration. If you just watch the movie you will never know what you are missing, and in this case I don't think that is a bad thing.
*Seriously most of the food in the book made me sick to my stomach. I get it, they are Swedish, they eat weird stuff. I still don't like the sounds of it.