Friday, August 13, 2010


Warning: Contains spoilers.

Here's the Big Debate about this novel: Is it misogynistic in its depiction of violence against women or is its depiction of violence against women an indictment of misogyny?

People can debate all they want about the violent scenes, but all I can say is: These people sure drank a lot of coffee. It seemed like every page someone was making coffee, or drinking coffee, or asking someone if they wanted coffee. It left me wondering if Sweden is the only country in Europe that drinks coffee instead of tea. Do these people pour it on their breakfast cereal? I'll never know if Larsson was a misogynist, but I'll bet my bottom dollar he had a caffeine addiction.

But if you're in the camp that he was making an indictment of misogyny, you could argue it comes in the form of Lisbeth Salandar, a scrawny, twenty-four year-old ward of the Swedish court. She's misread by everyone around her as completely socially inept and quite possibly mentally challenged; consequently she misreads herself as a freak. (She's not.)

At first glance she seems harmless. She's young, she's tiny, she seems defenseless. But she's a gifted hacker and even better researcher. She's not one to forgive and she sure as hell isn't one to forget. Cross her and she will extract revenge in imaginative ways, as her second guardian (who brutally rapes her) finds out.

One day she is hired to investigate Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist recently convicted for libel. He in turn has been hired to investigate the disappearance of a rich debutante. Eventually Blomkvist figures out Salandar hacked him, and instead of being pissed, he hires her to handle aspects of the investigation he dare not go as a journalist.

During the course of the novel, they become lovers, but there's also the fine, fragile bloom of a friendship underneath. During the obligatory “savior” scene, Larsson breaks at least a little new ground in making Salandar the unabashed hero, saving Blomkvist from the killer. Seriously, when's the last time you read a novel where the guy is playing the girl's part? This leads me to believe that Larsson was, in a popular-novel-entertaining way, making an indictment against misogyny. Or maybe he was just trying to give the ol' mystery novel a good twist.

Whichever it was, I'll bet you anything that when he sat down to write, he held a cup of coffee.


Madame Lefty said...

He was a coffee addict. A news-piece on MSNBC revealed that some of the coffee places his characters visited in the story were the same ones he hung around.

Blomkvist and him had a lot in common. Larsson was an interesting fellow.

stacy said...

Hah! I knew it!

The coffee thing came off as a bit of a writing tic for me in an otherwise excellent read.

JES said...

Stacy, funny coincidence: I spent most of the last couple mornings writing my own review offline, and went to copy-n-paste and post it today. Saw yours here from yesterday, decided to just go ahead and publish.

I thought it was a good read, too, even though it seemed like it shouldn't be. Some of the exposition -- especially at the beginning -- seemed completely at odds with how "they" say you need to draw your readers in. Shows how much "they" know!

Didn't catch the misogyny, but now that I've read your review I can see how it might have struck some readers that way.

Congratulations on the coffee-addict catch!