Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Break Reading

I finished reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larrson on Saturday. It's not a perfect mystery/thriller, but I found it to be very engaging. I'm a slow reader, but if I had been able to just sit and read without interruptions, I could probably have read the book in just a few days, maybe even one or two. There were a few places where I thought the story dragged, but most of those places consisted of background information about the Vanger family or the Swedish financial markets/economy. The mystery involves the niece of an elderly Swedish industrialist, retired from heading his family's business. Harriet Vanger went missing when she was sixteen, and her uncle Henrik convinces a convicted libelist to make one last ditch effort to find out what happened to her before Henrik dies. Eventually, the journalist Mikael Blomqvist hooks up (in more ways than one) with Lisbeth Salander, a hacker who had done a background check on him for Henrik Vanger. She ends up helping him solve the mystery and saving his life along the way.

In addition to being a mystery, this novel is also trying to make a statement about the number of women who are violently abused in Sweden. Each section of the book is introduced with a statistic about the subject. In the end, I'm not sure the novel does anything more than make the reader aware of how horribly women can and are abused in Sweden.

The novel was written before the author passed away in 2004, but Larsson seems to have predicted some of the current economic events that we have been witnessing for the last couple of years. Late in the novel, after a major financial player has been exposed as a fraud, Blomqvist discusses the Swedish economy, but he could be discussing the American economy or any other economy that is market driven:
"You have to distinguish between two things--the Swedish economy and the Swedish stock market. The Swedish economy is the sum of all the goods and services that are produced in this country every day. There are telephones from Ericsson, cars from Volvo, chickens from Scan, and shipments from Kiruna to Skovde. That's the Swedish economy, and it's just as strong or weak today as it was a week ago...The Swedish Exchange is something very different. There is no economy and no production of goods and services. There are only fantasies in which people from one hour to the next decide that this or that company is worth so many billions, more or less. It doesn't have a thing to do with reality or with the Swedish economy."
If only the latter didn't affect the former so much these days, we would all probably be much better off.

Something about this book made me think of the Sidney Sheldon books that I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, as a teenager and young adult. It's been too long for me to remember enough details to make a real comparison, but I recall that there was some kind of mystery/crime to be solved. If I remember correctly, though, the main female characters usually ended up happier than the Salander does in this novel. Still, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who likes crime novels.

More Spring Break Reading
  • On Sunday, I read Mary Oliver's introduction to The House of Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. (I like the Modern Library Classics editions.) I don't know if I read something about this book recently, but I have been wanting to read it ever since I finished War & Peace. Before I purchased the book and read the introduction, I had forgotten that one of my favorite Advanced Placement essays required an analysis of a passage from this novel. Maybe I will post about the passage when I get to it in the novel.
  • I started The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean yesterday and read a bit more early this morning. It's my book club's current selection, and I think it will be a quick read. So far, it's interesting, but I'm not completely hooked. The story is about a Russian emigre with Alzheimer's. She clearly remembers evacuating the art from the Hermitage in Leningrad during World War II, but she can't remember much present information from one moment to the next.
  • This morning, after I read more of The Madonnas of Leningrad, I read the introduction to George Eliot's Middlemarch, another Modern Library Classics edition. The introduction was written by A.S. Byatt. I have wanted to read Middlemarch for a long time, but I am such a slow reader that I often postpone starting such long books, 799 pages in this copy. However, after reading Byatt's introduction, I don't think I can put it off much longer.
  • Finally, this morning, I read "The Sisters," the first story in James Joyce's Dubliners, which I have never read. I have read the story "Araby" and maybe "The Dead" before, but I don't think I have read any of the other stories before today. I have a Vintage International edition, which doesn't have an introduction, so I just jumped right in to the first story.
  • This afternoon, UPS delivered my latest LibraryThing Early Reviewers book, Easter Parade by Richard Yates, which brings to three the number of books that I have from this program waiting to be read and reviewed. I still need to read Etta by Gerald Kolpan, which just came out today, and Rocket Man by William Elliot Hazelgrove.
I had actually thought that April would be my read and review month, but now, I'm all excited about reading some classics and Valerie and I are moving to a new apartment in a few weeks. Oh well, I'm sure I will figure something out. Now, I'm going to read for a while before I go to bed.

1 comment:

Knopf Marketing said...

Dear fellow Stieg Larsson fan,

We’re trying something new for the launch of the second book in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series.
Run your own Stieg Larsson contest on your blog—for which we will provide the prizes (a free copy of The Girl Who Played with Fire, cool temporary dragon tattoos). The first thirty (30) entrants will get first dibs of the translated manuscript of book three. Below you’ll find the complete rules and regulations.

Click here
for contest entry

Visit the Stieg Larsson site
for more info

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The first 250 bloggers to enter their information (name, blog name, blog URL mailing address, and daytime phone number) will obtain the giveaway material (one (1) copy of The Girl who Played with Fire and a batch of temporary tattoos) to host a sweepstakes on their blog. The first 30 bloggers to enter will also receive (1) copy of the manuscript of the third Stieg Larsson thriller at the time of its in-house release. All applications to participate will have to be received by 11:59 pm (Eastern Daylight Time) on August 15, 2009. U.S. Residents only. Bloggers are solely responsible for the administration of the sweepstakes on their blogs.

The A.A. Knopf Marketing Team