“18 percent of the women in Sweden have been threatened by a man.”
And so begins the emotional rollercoaster and spine-tingling mystery of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The first installment of the Millennium trilogy exposes themes of inequality and violence towards women while creating a character that will have readers rushing to find a Lisbeth Salander-worthy dragon tattoo.
Every year since his granddaughter Harriet’s disappearance, millionaire Henrik Vanger receives a framed exotic flower. To uncover the mystery, Vanger challenges Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who recently retired from his own political magazine after a nasty libel conviction, to solve the 43-year-old case in one year.
Lisbeth Salander, a badass computer hacker who possesses a photogenic memory, is fighting her own battles. After seeking revenge of her rapist, Salander teams up with Blomkvist and moves to the cold and isolated Swedish island. Together, they attempt to piece together Harriet’s disturbing past by tracking down pictures, decoding her diary and interviewing unwilling and eerily suspicious family members that populate the island. But someone on the island is determined to hunt them down and will do anything to stop the duo from uncovering family secrets.
How is this a pink novel?
Each part of the bestselling novel, which is titled Men Who Hate Women in Sweden, begins with a statistic about violence against women that remains in the back of reader’s mind as they unfold the truth of Harriet’s past. The book is filled with cruelty: animal cruelty, family violence, incest, political inequality, harassment and murder, much of which is projected at women.
To find out why Larsson felt obligated to write about violence, read our listical about the political and feminist activist.
Salander comes to the conclusion that the Swedish government largely ignores the rights of women. The novel also unveils the mistreatment of women in the Bible through Harriet’s diary.
While presenting political and societal corruption, the novel also presents characters that refuse to follow the norms. Blomkvist has a long and open affair with his friend and business partner. Salander doesn’t restrict herself to loving one gender and refuses to label herself. She wears dark clothing, rides a motorcycle and has tattoos and piercings. She’s labeled clinically insane yet is a gifted and intelligent hacker who doesn’t take shit from anyone.
Five Reasons Why You Should Read this Novel
1. Blomkvist and Salander’s friendship will make your feminist heart tingle. Blomkvist does not give a flying hoot that Salander is not stereotypically “pretty” or that she doesn’t open up to people. He bases his judgments and respect on how well Salander can do her job and how she treats him.
Salander, so used to getting harassed and mistreated, is surprised at Blomkvist’s actions towards her:
“She had been sharing a house with him for a week, and he had not once flirted with her. He had worked with her, asked her opinion, slapped her on the knuckles figuratively speaking when she was on the wrong track, and acknowledged that she was right when she corrected him. Dammit, he had treated her like a human being.”
2. There are females. Lots of them. If we’re lucky, a mystery plot might feature a minor female character that says something witty or seduces the bad guys. Every female The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo introduces is intelligent, capable, intriguing and forces readers to listen.
The male characters are also wise and interesting. Will you like all of them? Not a chance. But this novel doesn’t need a sexy minor character or a dimwitted fool to move the plot along. Stereotypes? No thank you.
3. Reading it is like an adult game of Guess Who. Remember that fun game where you flicked down pictures of people until you guessed your partner’s person? This novel is just a darker, more misogynistic and scary version.
4. Steig Larsson is haunted by his past. A book is never merely a book. It’s a lesson. Larsson wrote this novel (and series) to expose Sweden’s corruption and inequalities. He was a social justice activist who put his life in danger daily. He didn’t even know of the novel’s success before he died. Larsson is forever haunted by what he witnessed as a boy, and has tried to pay tribute and justice through his words.
5. Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth Salander. Did I mention “Lisbeth Salander”? Outsiders are revolted by her appearance, but the novel mentions that her “greatest fear, which was so black that it was of phobic proportions, was that people would laugh at her feelings.” Aren’t we all afraid of that?
She also acknowledges that the cards are stacked against her in Sweden’s detrimental and disturbing society.
“As a girl, she was a legal prey, especially if she was dressed in a worn black leather jacket and had pierced eyebrows, tattoos, and zero social status.”
Fun fact: Lisbeth’s Salander’s outfit caught so much attention that the fashion retailer H&M decided to launch a line.
This novel demonstrates that every character doesn’t have to have a black-and-white persona. Females are complex and, like men, they have the capability to be kind, evil, intelligent, cruel or helpful. If you’re in the mood for a kick-ass and fierce feminist thriller that exposes corruption and women killers, (let’s be honest, who isn’t?) purchase this novel and treasure it forever.
BookSmart Nutrition Facts
Cost: $8.00 (Social justice? Priceless.)
Titles by the Author: The Girl Who Played with Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest
First Sentence: “It happened every year, was almost a ritual.”
Awards: Glass Key Award, Boeke Prize, Anthony Award for Best First Novel, Best Swedish Crime Novel Award