The Girl Who Stole Our Hearts

Less than hundred pages into the first book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, you will realise why the trilogy is a sensation. As you pace through the third, The Girl Who Kicked Hornets’ Nest, at breakneck speed, your amazement only widens and the only thing you regret is Stieg Larsson’s untimely death. Never before I have paced through the last  pages of the book with a wonderful fascination for the characters and also a deep melancholy that it is indeed ending and you will never again be able to read another book from this writer.

Wikipedia informs that Larsson had left the half-finished fourth book and had actually planned ten books. Like Beethoven’s Unfinished Symphony, several people are going to attempt at finishing it. There’s news that Larsson’s partner is already working on it.

       

The three books from Stieg Larsson, now famously known as The Millennium Trilogy, have everything to become a publishing sensation: thriller, whodunit, locked-room-mystery, murder, financial scandal, secret agents, spy thriller, political thriller, sex, violence, car chases, hand-to-hand combats, technology, court-room drama, and what’s more, even plenty of romance. Now you must wonder: how in the heaven’s name had Larsson managed to pack everything? Such a mishmash of elements should have led to an incoherent botchy book, right? Well, I don’t have to answer that question.

But what’s most appealing about the trilogy was the characters. Not since Harry Potter did I genuinely care for the characters so much that their loss was my loss and their victory was mine. I jumped up in joy when they triumphed. And like Potter, I am going to remember the characters for a long time to come. Therefore, Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist, Erica Berger, Holger Palmgren, Dragan Armansky, Monika Figuerola have been etched in our literary memories and Salander is going to be in the Hall of Fame of crime novels. Never before in the literary world did I encounter a heroine who was 150 cm height, an ardent goth fashionista, with tattoos on her body and with piercings all on her face and obstinate, stubborn, lacked social skills, yet whom we loved and cared for so much that our heart ached. Since Larsson is no more we are not going to see her again and that was an unbelievably painful feeling.

It was not just Salander but every character had been constructed etched with just as much care and concern. All of them had three-dimensional definitions, with back-stories, character arcs, distinct personalities, strengths and weaknesses, and they also had a clearly defined social life according to their class. They worked, earned money and spent it. In Hollywood crime novels and action films the characters seemed to often have endless supply of funds. Here, the characters always worry about their money and talk and think incessantly about budgets.  A sample: The character who was investigating a murder and decided to go to confront the murderer stops to wonder whether to take taxi or local train. (then takes the taxi, of course). This approach led to ample descriptions about the Swedish society. The Stockholm is drawn clearly, the houses of the people and their respective lifestyles, be it working class or people in the upper echelons of the society. The race relations are identified and even political leanings of the characters are discussed.

The trilogy makes us reflect about the nature of the Swedish society, about marital relationships, about our own definitions of ritual, goth, romance, and personal freedom. At times, the book’s speed in itself is a detriment because, I wanted to slow down to savour the characters, the small, tiny details, the non-significant events and relish it but Larsson didn’t allow me and kept pumping the gas. That will have to wait for the second reading I suppose.

Now the movies are being made in the Hollywood and the first movie is out. The Swedish film industry has already made the three films. I should find out whether the Nordic version have done justice to Larsson’s vision. I have already become biased against the Hollywood version because Daniel Craig is no Blomkvist. Someone suggested Ed Norton. I’m yet to make up my mind. But certainly not Craig.