If you haven’t heard of The Millennium Trilogy, who am I kidding, you have to have heard of it! At least from my blog, if nowhere else. I kid, but in all seriousness, if you do nothing else this year, read this trilogy. Stieg Larsson is an amazing writer, his descriptions paint exquisite pictures in your mind. Like the descriptions of Lisbeth Salander, THE girl with the dragon tattoo, who isn’t your average 20-something-year-old. Somehow the descriptions of her make Salander into someone you end up feeling very fond of. Actually, I think I may have a bit of a crush on her. Is it weird that I have a crush on a fictional character? … My point is, Larsson is an incredible writer, but some credit needs to go to Reg Keeland who translated the book from Swedish into English.
If you’re not familiar with the trilogy, it focuses around Lisbeth Salander, a group of journalists from Millennium magazine (hence the name of the trilogy), and Salander’s other acquaintances. Seems like it could be a boring trilogy, but don’t be fooled, it’s definitely not boring. The novels focus largely around violence against women, including: rape and the sex trade in Sweden. I read somewhere that Larsson was inspired to write the series after he witnessed a woman being raped when he was in his early teens. Whether this is true, I can’t say, but it could be a reason for some of the trilogy’s contents. It’s by far not an easy read. The subject matter may be dark, but Larsson presents his characters very fairly. The men behind the rapes and sex trade are perceived as evil, dark, and disgusting. However, Larsson doesn’t leave it there, he lets the reader into the mind of these men, he gives them a conscience, he lets them explain their actions and reasons behind them. So it’s not so easy to say that so-and-so is an asshole when you’re presented with his version of events.
Larsson also gives a strong voice to the women in his novels. They don’t simply sit there and do nothing because they’re women and therefore are helpless, they take action and fight back. Salander, for example, is abused throughout the novels and as the trilogy progresses, we learn more of what happened in her past and although she’s been hurt before, she never sat quiet. She took matters into her own hands and wasn’t afraid to stand up for herself. Another female character is Ericka Berger, the editor-in-chief of Millennium magazine. Let me put it this way, I would never want to get on her bad side (if she were a real person, of course). As the editor-in-chief, she has to deal with a huge number of (how should I put this nicely?) idiots. She is a strong woman in a largely male-dominated profession and she never apologizes for her actions and she never stands down. Now that’s my kind of woman! (ok, so maybe I have two fictional crushes … oh well)
The trilogy starts with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo where we’re introduced to Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist at Millenium magazine who is accused of libel against a powerful man in Sweden. He then takes a job for Henrik Vanger. The job is to find a murderer who was active 40 years ago. This novel also introduces all the other characters who will be present throughout the trilogy, like Salander and Berger.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo actually presents a mystery about Salander. She has her own story lines as well as ones that are intertwined with Vanger and Millenium. A friend of mine told me she thought that the Salander story line in this novel could have been its own book, but after reading the next two novels, I realized that this could not be possible. In the first novel we learn about Salander’s research skills, her awkward, but somehow very normal behaviour, we learn to trust her and we even grow fond of her. All of this is crucial for the next two novels. If readers didn’t trust Salander to be someone who is worth sticking up for then the next two novels could be a hard read, or at least one that wouldn’t be very interesting.
In The Girl Who Played With Fire, the mystery focuses solely on Salander. The book presents her both as guilty and innocent of crimes that she’s accused of. The only way to pick a side is to already have thoughts or feelings about Salander as a person and knowing her well enough to know what may or may not be true.
The next and final novel, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest, continues from a cliffhanger from the previous novel. Salander is still in the hot seat, but this time there’s more evidence in relation to the crimes.
In order to fully enjoy this book, readers need to be on Salander’s side. At least that’s my opinion. I think Larsson did an amazing job in setting up Salander’s character in the first novel and continuing to build on her character in the next two novels. He created a character that could easily be very disliked by many readers. She’s quiet, impatient, considered mentally ill by society and the government, and is too quick to take action whether good or bad (usually bad) in her own hands. Through all of this, Larsson is able to make Salander a very likable character and one that readers will stick up for and root for. Now that’s a talented writer!
The series deals with some very political issues. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a very political person, nor do I enjoy reading about politics. To be honest, I find it boring and messy. The Millennium trilogy presents a lot of politics, but I found it to be very easy to follow. Again, a talented writer.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I loved this trilogy. I wish it were a series and there were more novels! Sometimes I’ll read a novel and I’ll enjoy it and recommend it to others, but other times, I’ll read a novel and feel like I know the characters well enough to call them my friends. These novels make me feel like if I met one of these characters on the street, I would feel comfortable calling them my friend. They make me root for the characters, love the characters, hate the characters, get angry at the characters when they do something stupid, and even sit on the edge of my seat, crossing my fingers that a character will get out of a room alive. These are the novels that I absolutely adore and the novels in the Millennium trilogy are exactly this. Larsson is an amazing writer and it’s such a shame that he’s not alive to witness his success.
I highly recommend reading this trilogy. The first novel is hard to get into, but just remember that it’s all information you’ll need for the coming books! Let me know what you thought of the trilogy. Did you enjoy it as much as I did?