February 23, 2011
I started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo last fall. I was traveling a ton and read a lot then and honestly needed an escape. It came in the form of Lisbeth Salander, the brutally flawed protagonist in Stieg Larsson’s bestselling series. Slow out of the gate (the first 100 pages or so I wasn’t sure what all the fuss was about) but stick with it, it’s worth it, and you’ll be clamoring for the next. I’m not alone, take a look around the terminal on your next flight and I’d bet at least a few people are buried in any one of his three books.
The writing itself, well it isn’t anything made of Jane Austen or even Emily Giffin prose. Not to be all hoity-toity about it, but I find it a bit basic (it could be the English translation), but no one can question Larsson’s ability to develop a thick and page-turning plot.
This isn’t a new story, but what I find even more fascinating than the series is the story behind the writer. Great article in The Times on it here. In short, Larsson died of a heart attack while climbing seven flights of stairs to his office before the books would become wildly successful (actually all three published posthumously). Side note: it’s also incredibly interesting that he apparently insisted on completing all three drafts before attempting to get published. His death occurred within months of the manuscripts being delivered to the publisher. Fascinating, conspiracy theory, you-can’t-make-this-up stuff. It gets deeper, you see, Larson was a Swedish political journalist who received threats often from neo-Nazi’s and far-right extremists because of his work, and he lived his life relatively in hiding. Allegedly not wanting to put her at risk, he never married his partner of more than three decades, architect Eva Gabrielsson.
Gabrielsson supposedly hasn’t received a dime off her late spouse’s estate since common law marriage is not recognized in Sweden. The drama ensues when an allegedly estranged brother and father claimed his computer, and to this day they are fighting over the intellectual property on it (supposedly his fourth book in the series). The computer, however, was left to his partner, but the royalties to his family since a will was never drawn up. Phew, and I thought my family had issues. But, seriously, these books are amazing. The backstory, just as much.