Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

By Stieg Larsson
New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
Week 26      Fiction

Wow, it took me two weeks, but I have just now finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the third book in the Millenium series by Stieg Larsson. This is by far the densest of the three books, but absolutely as fascinating. It ties up all the loose ends of the series (as you would expect).

The interesting thing is that it deals with corruption in the highest places—you would think it was an American book! The fireworks of the second book are over; there are dead bodies everywhere; Lisbet is barely alive under police guard in the hospital, and Mikael is about to uncover a secret service plot that involves the highest seats of government.

There’s plenty of action in this book, and a lot of it takes place in the courtroom. Mikael’s sister, Giannini, becomes Salander’s lawyer and unleashes some fireworks of her own as she shows that Salander is the victim in a vast case of political abuse. The book is not nearly as violent as previous books, but there is an awesome scene in which Salander nails her half brother Ronald’s feet to the floor with a nail gun.

The underlying theme of all the books is women and the varieties of abuse that they can be and are exposed to. The main protagonists in this volume are a set of appealing, strong female characters, all known by their last names, Salander, Berger, Giannini, and an Amazon named Figuerola. They are not appealing in the way that Precious Ramotswe is in the No. 1 Detective Agency, but appealing in a dark, brooding Scandinavian sort of way—characters that we are not likely to come in contact with in the United States. I have a feeling, however, that Lisbet Salander, the girl with the dragon tattoo is the main reason that the books are such enormous hits. According to the LA Times review:
“Simply put, Salander is a deeply radicalized feminist, portrayed in a manner designed to test the sympathies of a largely liberal-minded audience, the attention of which is diverted by the blur of his books' nonstop action. Implicitly, Larsson asks us whether the understanding we normally, casually extend to the principles Salander acts upon can also extend to a character who so heedlessly exemplifies them.
The answer to that question is yes. Salander may be the toughest nut in Sweden, but she is also a victim — of the country's by-the-book social-welfare system and of simple human cruelty. We like her almost in spite of herself — such a lonely, solipsistic young woman, lashing out at a world she can manipulate but can never fully comprehend.”

The people I have polled who have read these books are vastly divided about them. I really enjoyed them but I have a pretty strong stomach when it comes to violence. My friends who didn’t like them are much more sensitive readers.

Here is a review of Hornet’s Nest in the New York Times:
I had to chuckle about this review, because the reviewer, David Kamp, dwells on the number of times the drinking of coffee appears in these books—at least once in every chapter. However, if you grew up in Scandinavian Minnesota, like I did, you don’t even notice. Coffee is the staff of life!

The Swedish movie The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is very good, by the way, and very true to the book. The other two Swedish movies, The Girl who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest are soon to be released in the United States.

No comments: