Stieg Larsson flies to new heights

More on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl who Played with Fire, the first two books of the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson.

In a fascinating post (scroll down for the English translation), Dorte of DJs krimblog provides further analysis of the likeness of Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomqvist to Pippi Longstocking and Kalle Blomkvist, respectively. Pippi is a popular children's fictional character, particularly in Sweden, who is strong, assertive, independent and lives on her own, mocking any adults who try to control her. In another series of books by the same author, Astrid Lindgren, Kalle is a teenage detective, one of a gang who solve criminal puzzles in a style that has been likened to Hercule Poirot or Peter Wimsey. I have to admit that I did not take to Pippi as a child, and I don't have any recollection of Kalle (though I did enjoy a perhaps similar book by another author, Emil and the Detectives by Erich Kastner). So I don't have the same warm memories of Lindgren's books as many others have.

When I first read of this association, which is alluded to several times in the first two books of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, I felt that the emphasis on these characters from children's fiction, while making some sense, did not work in the context of some of the very dark parts of these books – the first two of which go to many extremely black places. Dorte's posts explain the allegories extremely well: here she discusses Michael as Kalle Blomqvist; and here Lisbeth as Pippi Longstocking (albeit with a feminist crusading and necessarily, for her part, dark streak). For an earlier post that acts as a sort of introduction to Dorte's two analyses, see "Who is Lisbeth Salander?" by Norman of Crime Scraps.

In other Stieg Larsson news, Ron Beard of Quercus writes to let me and other bloggers know that "the paperback of Dragon Tattoo is selling more, week on week", that Playing with Fire is still riding high in the hardback charts (and indeed, Dragon Tattoo is also doing well in hardback), and in a charmingly generous comment: "we all know where the buzz first started"! (In the blogosphere, naturally.)

See here for a new review of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo at Eclectic Book Reviews – "for once, however, I suspect this is a case where you should believe the hype, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo really is that good". And just in case you think this post is me hyping, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the favourite read for 2008 of the Euro Crime reviewers – and I didn't even vote for it! (I loved the book, but I thought I'd prefer book 2, which I did, so I'm saving my vote for that – or maybe even book 3 when it is published here this Autumn.)

John Baker reviews the same book here, also bringing to the fore the Pippi Longstocking aspects. "I couldn't put the book down", he writes.

Barbara Fister writes about the books in a post with the title "it all goes back to childhood".

Helen of It's Criminal reviews The Girl Who Played with Fire: "utterly brilliant – enthralling, compulsive and mesmerising".

Another review of the same book can be enjoyed at Material Witness, who calls it "a quite outstanding novel". And the ever-insightful Glenn of International Noir Fiction shares with us some comments on The Girl Who Played with Fire, among other points, making comparisons with the novels of Dumas.

And here are a couple of round-up posts about Stieg Larsson and his books, one here by Barbara Fister at Scandinavian Crime Fiction; and one here by yours truly at Petrona.

I hope by now you have got the drift: these books really are a bit special. Do read them (if you haven't already!).

12 thoughts on “Stieg Larsson flies to new heights

  1. The Girl Who Played With Fire thudded through my door today. My. Goodness. I had no idea it was such a THICK book, and stupidly, I hadn’t clocked it was a hardcover when I bought it on Amazon, I kind of imagined it to be a large format paperback. Will look forward to reading it. Thanks for all the links to the reviews.

  2. There are now almost as many web pages about Stieg Larsson and his books as he wrote in the books. Thanks for collecting all these links together.

  3. I am going to be that one that is “coming late” to this author.
    Karen passed her 1st in the series to me last year and in 2009 I have to admit a reading pile for the first quarter that I believe I will struggle to get through, alas.
    I have to admit that the size puts me off. But I am very aware that this needs to be re-negotiated, given what I read here, elsewhere and on FriendFeed.
    Could I start with no. 2, “Fire”?
    Recommendations appreciated.

  4. Hello Crime Fic Reader – I don’t recommend starting with Fire, though it is a better book than Tattoo in my opinion. The three are very much tied together. In Tattoo, Lisbeth is a more insubstantial, intriguing figure – but I think you need to have read that for her back-story and subsequent events in Fire to have impact.
    Both books have very long preambles. The “prologue” in Fire is about 200 pages long!
    But although both books are very long, they will not take long to read I can guarantee: (1) they have nice big print; and (2) they are very exciting. Once you start (and get past the prologues) you will race through I predict.

  5. I think some time back in a comment at Crime Scraps I gave Dragon Tattoo a B- and said it showed promise of better things. That was the best I could conjure, but I am, much encouraged by the comments of Reg Keeland in particular, looking forward to getting the sequel. But one thing about Salander. As Larsson himself spoke to the matter , there is no doubting that she has her origins in Pippi Longstocking, but as I read Dragon Tattoo it struck me forcibly that, certain differences notwithstanding, Lisbeth is very reminiscent of Carol O’Connell’s Kathleen Mallory, and I was pleased to see that Glenn at INF also noticed this. Finding myself thus not alone in this strain of thought, I did a quick google of the two authors names together and in short order found thirteen like-minded readers and reviewers. I suggest only that Larsson may have found some inspiration re the development of Pippi into Lisbeth in the Mallory novels. There are not a few references to crime novels in Dragon Tattoo, surely reflective of Larsson’s own reading preferences, and that too suggested to me that he may very well have read O’Connell, whose Mallory also is a singular and striking character.

  6. Interesting, Philip – I read a couple of the Carol O’Connell novels a good few years ago but did not get on with them too well. Maybe I should try again. However, I do recall Kathy as a character with elements of the supernatural, or fantastical (or comic book hero?!)

  7. No, Maxine, there is nothing of that sort in O’Connell’s novels, else I should not read them. One Mike Resnick has written tales about a PI named John Justin Mallory, also of Manhattan, who investigates crime in the supernatural realm or something of the sort — strictly for SF fans, I suspect. The closest thing to wizardry in the Mallory novels is what Kathy gets up to when she’s closeted with her bank of computers — wizardry, at least, to a technotwit such as myself. That, her feral life as an abandoned child before she is taken in by an NYPD detective, and her singular personality are the three salient things that brought her to mind when reading Larsson. If anyone should have it in mind to try the Mallory books, of which there are now nine, I think there’s merit in starting with the first, Mallory’s Oracle, though each can stand alone. There are continuing developments and some revelations in later books, the more appreciated for having read the first, which I thought an astonishing book to come from an artist approaching middle-age who simply decided to try writing a novel because her paintings weren’t selling too well.

  8. Philip, I love ‘technotwit’, and the concept of Lisbeth too as ‘feral’. Here’s a tip about book 3 — it gets political and traces high crimes all the way to the top echelon of Sweden’s government and security apparatus. So Stieg morphs the story into a sort of spy thriller. I think he was having lots of fun going through all the crime genres. Wonder what he would have done in books 4 through 10!
    As I’ve said elsewhere, the books all run together in my head as one big epic, and I have a hard time remembering which great scenes are from which book. I ought to post my photo of the stack of 3 books in double-spaced manuscript when I finished translating in December ’06. 2700 pages is quite an impressive pile!
    And Maxine, thanks for all the great links, hadn’t seen them all…

  9. Reg was right about book 2 being a lot better once the prologue was over and now he teases us about book 3!
    I will look forward to seeing the photo of 2700 pages.
    Thanks Maxine again for the links it certainly helps this lazy blogger if you do all the hard work.

  10. A couple more links since I wrote the post.
    Material Witness has a great post on the Pippi Longstocking theme (inspired by Dorte) here:
    http://materialwitness.typepad.com/material_witness/2009/01/stieg-larsson-and-the-girl-who-might-once-have-been-pippi-longstocking.html
    And via Karen of Euro Crime, Reg Keeland (thanks for your comment above, Reg – can’t wait!) has a blog called Stieg Larsson’s translator, in which he offers to answer questions about the books, here: http://reg-stieglarssonsenglishtranslator.blogspot.com/
    Thanks for spotting, Karen.

  11. Hey Norm, I will post that pic, as soon as I figure out how, on my blog mentioned above. Don’t mean to tease you with book 3, because the second one is still my favorite… I think. Yes indeed, Maxine, I’m enjoying those links. Looks like Millennium 1 & 2 are both in the top 10 in Oz as well: http://www.bookoffers.com.au/

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