Today’s book is the third book of the Millennium Trilogy, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

Yesterday was one of those stormy, wet days that discourages a person from even taking a walk with the dog. So I sat down and read this book. All of it.

Like with the second book in the series, one cannot sum up the plot, which if anything, seems even more expansive and rambling on this go around. But the basis of it is that Lis Salander is on trial for attempted murder, dark government sources are at work, and crusading journalist Blomkvist is trying to dig up the truth and save Salander. Okay, so a few thoughts. This book was clearly the least edited of the three–it isn’t as tight and suspenseful (until the last 200 pages of so), and that makes sense given that Larsson died before he had a chance to really edit the original, raw manuscript. But the book is still compulsively readable, and gives a satisfying conclusion to the series.

Much has been said about the violence in Larsson’s books. I have to say when I read the first book in the series (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) this past summer, I was put off by the descriptions of rape and sexual sadism. Granted, Larsson does not linger over them, but they are there, and that is part of the reason why I did not immediately finish the series. This time around with the last two books there is more murder than rape (that doesn’t really make anything better) but again, the descriptions are brief-they exist mainly to move along the plot. Even so, I am still not sure how I feel about this particular issue in the books. I understand why Larsson uses violence in his books, I understand his point, and I don’t think he could have done it any other way– but still, these books are not for the squeamish.

Then there is Lis Salander. My mom read the series before I did, and when I asked her about it in an email after she finished she told me that she was thinking about “Lis Salander all the time.” That is to say, Salander is Larsson’s most unusual creation in these books. Some reviewers have called her a “punk Pippi Longstockings”– Salander is a computer hacker, an wiz kid with Aspergers, and an abuse victim of the most horrible sort. She operates outside of society because society has failed her. It is also important to point out that Salander has a strong set of morals. Her own morality, to be sure, but she has a sense of personal responsibility and a rather unique sense of right and wrong. As a character, she is unforgettable– where Larsson came up with her is beyond me, but she does linger in the reader’s mind (like my mom said) long after one is done with the books.

One aspect of the book that is not written about often is the issue of friendship. I found this particularly interesting given that most of the relationships between men and women in these books are unconventional by (ideal) American standards (although not by Swedish standards if I understand correctly.) Love affairs happen on and off. Characters have lovers, even while married , there are various trysts and so forth, and many of the characters live together while unmarried. Relationships are so varied, that there is not one norm in the book, and I think that is why it is important to notice that one character points out that “Friendship is the most common form of love.”  Because even while the relationships between all the characters exist in a myriad of forms, it is a friendship that propels the books forward–that is the friendship between Salander and Blomkvist. Now Salander doesn’t really want the friendship, but she eventually caves in to Blomkvist when she realizes it cannot be her against the world, even though she is naturally suspicious of anyone and has almost no real friends. Blomkvist himself doesn’t understand why he goes to bat for Salander– he mainly just acknowledges that he cares for her and likes her. Now I think this is crucial–sometimes we cannot control who we love, or who becomes our friends. Sometimes you just love someone and there is no rhyme or reason to it. Larsson gets this, and that is one of the things I felt that was compelling about Blomkvist’s character. In a world where sexual relationships are ambiguous, Larsson paints friendship as perhaps, the one great love that one can have for another. I think he might be onto something here– as a society we put a huge importance on romantic love (talking about “the one” and all that nonsense) but we don’t really talk about friendship in the same way. Friendships are quieter, but they are also just as important because romantic love comes and goes– and even when it stays the basis to all romantic love is a good friendship anyway. I think Larsson gets this, and I think the importance of friendship is a one of the main themes of these books, but it is a subtle theme, something that is humming quietly under the surface.

Ciao for now,

Bookish C

Advertisements