The Girl who Played with Fire

So let’s talk about the protagonist here, Lisbeth Salander. Or should I say, the antagonist?

I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t like her. I see what Larsson is trying to do here. Lisbeth is the anti-hero and the hero all at once. She’s been abused, she’s abnormal, she’s a genius with a photographic memory, she shys away from love, and yet is loved in some way by the oddest assortment of people (including a lesbian, a reporter, a guardian figure, and a boxing champion). She’s rather an enigma. But I just don’t like her. In the first book, it wasn’t as obvious for me. I didn’t want to be biased because of her appearance, which screams for attention with multiple tattoos and piercings. Her character was slightly overshadowed by the great mysteries that Larsson wove for her to help solve. The second book revolves around her in a very personal way. It helps to answer a lot of questions about her past and how she came to be, but it irked me.

Salander likes to take matters into her own hands, and a lot of the other main characters don’t mind. I did mind. She’s no ordinary woman and bends the rules of society and morality to the greatest extent. While Larsson portrays society in general as disliking Salander’s methods and ways, the main characters in the book all seem to think she has every right to act the way she does and even find it endearing. I wasn’t a big fan of that aspect. No matter how fond I am of a person, I would probably object to them hacking into my life using all illegal and immoral methods and blatantly perusing through everything I do and say. Chuckling with admiration and amusement probably wouldn’t be my reaction to someone reading through my bank statements and private emails. Nor would I shrug my shoulders if a person displayed aggressively violent behaviour towards any threat, real or perceived.

I cannot wrap my head around Lisbeth Salander. I know that I personally dislike her. But I can’t tell whether Larsson wants us to like her, wants us to hate her, or wants us in this conundrum that irked me throughout the 724 pages of this book. Is this the mark of a good writer—to create a character so complex that she’s loved and hated and a point of contention throughout the read? What do you think of this?

My second reaction is to the book in general. Dear. Sweet. Lord. 724 pages that could’ve been cut in half. Easily. I’ve stuck out some long books in my time and waded through ridiculously hard language of Shakespeare, Dickens, and the like. But I could barely tolerate the plain, simple language in this book simply because I felt that it droned on and on and wasted time pointlessly. The book cover boasts that readers will spend a sleepless night trying to finish this book. It took me three days because I kept tossing it aside with boredom. I understand character development. I understand the need to create suspense. I understand the urge to place important little details that will somehow all add up in the end. But really, I thought the book was unnecessarily dragged out. I found myself skimming pages because they felt irrelevant. The suspense and excitement that built within me during the first novel was completely lacking from the beginning. I was mildly interested in all the missing puzzle pieces that presented themselves somewhere around the 300th page, when finally some action occurred. And then I found myself bored until roughly the 650th page when things began to gently pick up pace again. The conclusion to the book was overdone and yet underwhelming. I admit, I rolled my eyes when a certain miraculous recovery occurred.

All in all, I was surprisingly displeased with this book. It’s particularly odd for me to feel that way because between the “national bestselling” hype and my own personal pleasure derived from the previous instalment, I thought for sure I would’ve enjoyed this one. However, this book has left me wondering whether I should even bother reading The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. I’m looking at it right now and it looks significantly thicker than it’s predecessors. Typically, that would excite me. Now I’m more than skeptical. What do you think—should I give the final book a chance?

Ultimately I’m wondering where the appeal lay in this book. I know so many people who loved it and so I feel as though I really missed the boat and read it wrong? Is that even possible? Share your thoughts, I’m very interested.

All in all this book does not fare well with my new official rating system. I’ve decided to use the golden snitch to rank my books. 5 snitches means it’s fabulous. One means, it kinda sucked.

The Girl who Played with Fire:  

I feel like I would recommend this book just out of curiosity to see whether others felt as I did or starkly different. So…

Recommendation Rate:   


3 thoughts on “The Girl who Played with Fire

  1. You’re definitely not alone in not liking Lisbeth. *I* loved her for reasons that I’m not sure I can even coherently explain, but my husband complained about her a lot while he was reading. One thing we did both agree on was that her affair with a teenage boy (at the resort in the beginning of the book) was more than a little icky. It’s no wonder they left that bit out of the Swedish movie.

    I am not at all an expert on this topic, but I *think* I remember hearing that Larsson had a particular interest in violence against women and wrote Lisbeth as a character who would kick ass on behalf of every woman who has ever been victimized. I also heard that he wrote her as having Asperger’s syndrome, which explains much of her antisocial behavior and her genius-level computer skills. I don’t always agree with her choices, but that just makes her more real for me…and in that way, more likable.

  2. Aha! A Lisbeth fan! I wish you could explain it to me lol. About the affair with the teenage boy, did I miss something while skimming pages? Because it played no part in the story at all after it was over. What. Was. The. Point? Same with the husband and wife, aside from the fact that Lisbeth is brutal about men who abuse women. We already see that in the first book and through the rest of the second. Was it important because this time, it was a total stranger? Speaking as a Criminal Justice major, I *hated* when she took matters into her own hands. My soul died a little every time she decided on what was right and wrong and how to act. And then it died further when people just decided to go with the flow on it. Not to mention the whole portrayal of the police force as completely incompetent. Larsson refers to Aspergers a few times in the book, and I believe in book 1 as well, but he always confirmed that she didn’t have it (that’s how I read it). I felt sorry for her to an extent. But to a different extent I just wanted to shake her up and be like “Listen lady, enough is enough with the ‘tude”. And Blomkvist- I shared his annoyance with her wholeheartedly but I didn’t share the love behind it lol. I feel so harsh, but I can’t help it. I was relieved when I finished the book. That’s never a good feeling for me.

    • I wish I could explain it, too! Especially since I agree with you on all of the above. I guess I just love her despite her many, MANY faults. I think I explained away a lot of her sexual improprieties by telling myself that the European norms and mores regarding such behavior are a tad more flexible than those in America. I don’t even know if that’s true…but that’s what I told myself.

      I’m also really good at sympathizing with characters as they exist in their make-believe worlds. If she were a real person in the real world, I would be like, “Girl! Get thee to the authorities!” But in book world, I’m like, “Wreak feminine vengeance on all who dare cross thee!”

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