[personal profile] jane_elliot
Normally I don't bother with real world reviews, but this book is just so damn awful that I felt I should post my review as a warning.

First, full disclosure: I only managed to read about 150 pages of this book before I gave up in disgust.

That said: what a freaking disaster. I knew going in that this novel was only published in the United States because it was an international bestseller, but that didn't prepare me for how awful the book actually was.

Let me start with the writing. Not the nitty-gritty word choice and sentence structure of the writing; those issues could possibly be the fault of the translation. Translation can't possibly be to blame for the relentless telling instead of showing, however, or the way that the story interrupts itself every three pages to include a paragraph or ten of backstory for Every. Single. Minor. Character. Or the way Every. Single. Dwelling. referenced in the book (whether or not any of the characters actually spends time in it) is described down to the exact square footage (though I was interested to learn that Swedish homes are apparently vastly smaller than American ones). Or the way that the investigation of the mystery is given to us in ten page chunks that manage to stretch on endlessly without actually providing any useful information. Or... well, you get the point. When a chunk of exposition is dumped into the middle of the narrative in a TV show, it's referred to as a visit by the exposition fairy. This novel, in contrast, seems to have been entirely written *by* the exposition fairy, with the narrative fairy fighting tooth and nail to get a word in edgewise.

And don't get me started on the way that the author describes software used by the characters and *then includes a link on where to get it*.

The writing might have been more acceptable if the characters were good, but they aren't. Lisbeth, the highly touted eponymous character, might have improved over time, but in the first 150 pages all I learned is that she had a troubled past, is somewhat punk, is brilliant, and men fall in love with her for no reason. All of which is *told* to us. When we're actually shown what she is, it appears she's someone with good internet surfing skills who likes to poke around her boss's office when he's not in. *shrug* Said boss is even less developed, as we don't get to *see* anything about him at all and even in the telling side of things he gets less page time than his business does. As for the real protagonist of the story, the beleaguered journalist who is being unfairly persecuted by an eeeeeevil financier, all we know about him is that he's hard nosed (but not hard nosed enough to fight back against the financier, apparently), that his career was started by a lucky break, and that he's sleeping with his married coworker (which might have provided some interest except that the coworker's husband doesn't care).

The mystery is presumably what makes this story so popular and I will admit I'm mildly interested in it. Unfortunately, despite scores of pages of relentless fact-spewing, huge holes in the mystery go entirely unexplained. For example, all suspects between the ages of 20-25 are considered in the clear. Why? Who knows! But watch out for those infants, because everyone knows it's always the baby who did it.

To be honest, I'm hard pressed to imagine how this novel could have ever been a bestseller at all. Perhaps the writing style is what's popular in Sweden (and Europe as a whole). Perhaps a *lot* is lost in translation. Perhaps it's just that the author is dead and people are overlooking things that they wouldn't overlook in the work of a living author. Whatever the reason for its success, this novel is one of the most overrated books I've ever attempted to read and my only wish is that I hadn't wasted three hours of my life on trying to slog through the mess.

WARNING: I didn't get far enough to see this myself, but I've learned from other reviews that this book contains repeated depictions of violent sexual assault.  Apparently the original title of this book -- Men Who Hate Women -- was far more accurate than the sanitized US title.



August 2010

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