Thursday, February 24, 2011

Book Review: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

"When it comes down to it, this story is not primarily about spies and secret government agencies; it's about violence against women, and the men who enable it."--- journalist Mikael Blomkvist in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest 

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is the third installment in Stieg Larsson's trilogy and is just as riveting as its predecessors, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire.  I was trying to think of a way to write this review without spoiling this book or the previous two, and I think that the quotation above says it all.

With that said, violence is obviously paramount in this book.  Although it is not as explicit as in the first two installments, this book and the others are not for the faint of heart.  If you can't handle blood, guts or attacks on defenseless women, take a pass.  Larsson seems compelled to just throw in scenes to abuse some more female characters for the heck of it.  One subplot line involves Erika Berger, protagonist Mikael Blomkvist's lover and the editor of the magazine which employs him, being relentlessly stalked and sexually harassed.  Ultimately, the stalking of Berger has no bearing on the outcome of the book whatsoever.  It's almost as if he had written that passage and then just tossed it in for good measure.

Larsson's writing style is both a blessing and a curse.  On one hand, he manages to weave a compelling tale that snaps right along despite the book's length (this one clocked in at over 550 pages).  On the other hand, there are so many characters, many of whom have similar Swedish names, that it is difficult at times to follow who's who.  In The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, he printed a family tree in the book to help the reader follow along.  Something similar buried in this book's appendix would have been helpful to me and would have enhanced my enjoyment of the book.  Furthermore, he is so detailed in his writing it becomes at times laborious to read.  I often wondered if it was necessary to know what kind of pizza was stocked in someone's fridge and what they took in their coffee when it really seemed to have no bearing on the story or the character's development.

I'm not really into action novels nor do I enjoy reading about violence, rape, or abuse.  You're probably wondering why I continued reading the series after the first book.  After all, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's original title in Sweden was Men Who Hate Women.  It all comes down to Lisbeth Salander, "The Girl" of the series.  Lisbeth Salander is the best developed female character I've experienced in all my years of reading.  The convincing nature of her character was even more surprising to me considering the author is male.  By the end of the third book, you may not like her, but you definitely know much as one could know someone like Lisbeth Salander.

I read these books because I cared about the main character.  I needed to know what happened to her.  I wanted to see the outcome.  If I was not so captivated by her, I never would have finished the series since the amount of violence was a bit much for me.  I liked the books.  They were perfectly fine.  But in the end, it was Lisbeth Salander whom I loved.

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