Monday, July 26, 2010
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Girl Who Played with Fire, and Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
This morning I finished reading The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. It’s the third in the Millennium series, or The Girl Trilogy, as I’ve seen it called. The series that begins with Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, continues into Girl Who Played with Fire and ends with The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.
Difficult to believe that I avoided these books for so long.
I’ve been hearing about these books for a while. It’s not possible to walk into a bookstore or past any sort of book display without seeing them. But I wasn’t going to get sucked into the hype. I really didn’t have any interest in reading them. I could try to come up with a sensible reason as to why I didn’t want to read them – over exposure, not wanting to follow the crowd, too violent. But the truth is, I’m very particular about the crime novels I read. I tend to only read crime novels by women. In fact, I tend to only read books by women and anytime I read something by a man, I often find I regret it. I didn’t want to read these books because they were written by a man. Call it reverse sexism or whatever, but there it is.
As I was getting ready to leave for a two week trip to Europe, I became desperate to find a book to read on the trip. I would be spending lots of time on planes and trains and I’m the type that always has to have a book with me. I needed something that wouldn’t take up too much space, wasn’t too heavy, but would last for a while. I needed something interesting, and I wanted something European.
So I gave in to the Swedish crime novels that have topped the bestseller lists. If that many people loved the book, then it couldn’t be that bad. Also, I’d become more curious about the books after reading an article about the author in Vanity Fair. Most importantly though, the book would fit in my purse.
I ended up not reading it on the plane. I flew first class and had my own entertainment video system, so I watched movies the entire trip. When I ended up reading it was on the underground in London. Tip for solo travelers: always take a book. If you’re sitting there reading, you look like you know where you’re going, what you’re doing, and not like a lost, lonesome tourist.
The first book is very slow in the beginning. Lots of background and legal info. I think it took about 130 pages before I really felt like I was absorbed into the book. I was on the train from London to Paris when it happened.
I carried that book all over Paris with me, not realizing that the Millennium 2 movie poster I passed in the metro every day was for a movie based on Girl Who Played with Fire.
I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on my last night in Paris. I thought I’d be able to pick up a copy of the sequel at the airport. The books were all over London. But the Paris airport – at least the section I was in – is a horrible place. I finally found a display of “foreign” books. They had about ten books in English, one of the books was Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. But Girl Who Played with Fire couldn’t be found. Luckily, I had another book to read on the plane from Paris to Boston. In the Boston airport, the first thing I did was find a bookstore and buy a copy of the sequel. I think I paid more for that book than I’ve ever paid for a paperback, probably more than I’ve ever paid for a hardback. But I wanted it right then so that I could read it on the plane back to Dallas. Then I promptly fell asleep after the plane took off. Typical.
Reading the books has almost felt like taking another trip across the ocean.
What I absolutely loved about the books is the character of Lisbeth Salander. She’s everything a person wants to be and should strive to be. She’s brilliant and strong and doesn’t give a damn about what anyone thinks of her. She’s in complete control of her emotions and actions. When someone hurts her or someone she cares about, she goes after that person. But not in a blind rage, she puts together an effective strategy and carefully puts it into place. She believes in taking responsibility for every action, never making excuses. She had a horrible childhood filled with abuse and torture and bureaucratic mishaps and she survived it all and made herself stronger as a result of it.
She's described as being 4’11” and thin, and yet she never backs down from a fight against someone bigger than her. To me, she is the perfect mixture of action and intellect. She does just as much, or more, fighting with her mind. I can’t remember the last time I loved a character this much. I can’t stop thinking about her, and am so sad that the series is over.
As I said, I initially avoided these books because I tend to not read books written by men. With that attitude, I was pleased to discover that the female characters in this series were, for the most part, strong women. The series is filled with women who care about their careers and their families, women who don't simper in a corner and wait for a man to save them, women who aren’t afraid to fight back. When a character calls for a body guard, it’s a woman that shows up to handle the job. The two toughest police officers in the story happen to be women. Also, the men who have problems with these women are viewed as complete idiots. It is clear that these books were written by a man who respected women, understood the kinds of adversity women often face, and did not in any way regard them as the weaker sex. It breaks my heart to know that there won’t be any more books written by him. (The author died after writing the third book. Supposedly, there is part of a fourth book written and maybe an outline for up to ten books.)