Tag Archives: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Book Review: Don’t Fear This Boggart

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I have been a fan of Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising Sequence for a long time.  The Boggart is the first of her other books that I’ve had the opportunity to read.  The Boggart, like The Dark Is Rising Sequence, blends ancient legends—frequently lesser-known legends—with a modern world.

The world of The Boggart is a smaller world of smaller problems and lesser fates than that of The Dark of Rising, however.  The modern world of The Boggart is also more modern than that of The Dark Is Rising, in fact having been written 15 years after The Silver on the Tree.  Technology and specifically computers evolved rapidly between the late 70s and the early 90s, and this evolution is reflected in the worlds and plots created by Cooper.

The emphasis on technology in The Boggart does date the book, as I have read other reviews complain, but I do not think that this is a fault of the book, however much I giggled at the Gang of Five’s excitement over the new font Garamond that they had pirated, and told them, perhaps aloud, “Just wait till you see Papyrus;” a dated book is not an irrelevant book.  As we grow more and more dependent on rapidly changing technology our books are going to be more and more rapidly dated, but we can still cheer Odysseus’ triumph over the suitors as much as we can Salander’s revenge on Bjurman (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, 2005).

The Boggart was a little slow to start.  I really wasn’t grabbed by the book till the Boggart started wrecking havoc in Toronto; then the Old began to mix with new technology and modern explanations and philosophy, and I was hooked.  A psychology student and fantasy-lover, I was especially interested by Dr. Stigmore’s misinterpretation of the Boggart as a “poltergeist manifestation,” a troubled child who develops telekinesis, an explosion of pent-up energy.  I’ve never heard this theory before but was glad to hear someone mention poltergeists as Cooper’s depiction of a boggart really read more to me like a poltergeist from all I know—but all I’ve known of boggarts previously is from Harry Potter, and that may not be the most reliable source (a quick bit of research makes me think that neither Cooper’s nor Rowling’s depictions are entirely true to legend, though Cooper’s, as I would expect, seems closer).

I was a little upset by the inclusion—however minor—of a romantic subplot.  It seemed unnecessary, there simply because a boy and girl can’t meet and be friends in fiction without feeling or wishing for something more.  However my own work might conform to this same idea, I wish it was a stereotype that we could overcome, and I think Cooper had a great opportunity to do so here.  However, romance and romantic feelings are a fact of life and young people are curious.  I will let the romantic subplot slide.  While Emily and Tommy might be interested in one another, at least no one accuses them of sexual practice, which is a whole other depth to this same stereotype.

As ever, Cooper’s command of language is wonderful with stunning imagery and well-chosen details that add to the story’s depth.

****

Cooper, Susan.  The Boggart.  New York: Scholastic, 1993.

This review is not endorsed by Susan Cooper, Scholastic, or Margaret K McElderry Books, or Macmillan Publishing Company (the latter two of these own the original copyrights).  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.

Book Review: The Mystery of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Uncovered

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Minor spoilers ahead.

Behold, I do read adult literature!  And Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is definitely adult literature.  Here I include a warning that I wish that I had myself received:  The book contains several detailed, visceral rape scenes and deals with sadists.

The statistics at the beginning of each section suggest to me, though, that Larsson is writing to give a voice to the voiceless women who are abused, sometimes sexually, by men, and give a reason beyond the mere, unfortunate “sex and violence sell” adage that writers are often forced to remember, needing to make enough to cover living expenses with their writing, for the frequent discussions of grotesque torture of women.

The characters are almost as a rule promiscuous, but the consensual sex scenes are handled with more grace and are less imposing, sometimes implied by a mere phrase.

It is the financial crimes with which the book is also interested that suggest to me that Larsson does not intend his book for even a teenaged audience.

A good friend, coincidentally a teenager, proving that a writer’s intentions do not dictate his audience, recommended Stieg Larsson’s book to me and even handed me her copy to keep me from having an excuse to avoid it.  Interested, I took her rather forceful suggestion.  The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo has won national and international fame.  I remember seeing advertisements for the book in Tube stations while I was abroad in London in Spring 2010.  Sweden already boasts a 2009 cinematic adaptation of the story.  MGM is set to release an American adaptation December 21, 2011 with a high-profile cast.

The real pull of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I found, was the mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger that financial journalist Mikael “Kalle” Blomkvist finds himself investigating, and which becomes more and more tangled as Blomkvist digs deeper into the records of the day of her disappearance.  Larsson succeeded in drawing me into the case with intriguing, often distressing clues dropped with the proper length of pages between to keep me from getting bogged down in the many parallel plots: Blomkvist’s relationships, Salander’s life and relationships, the dark secrets and unlikely lives of the colorful Vagner family, the fate of the magazine Millennium of which Blomkvist is co-head, the fate of the Vagner Corporation, which is similarly in peril….  All these Larsson manages to weave together with the story of the investigation into a complicated and many-layered narrative.

The plot, for me became truly gripping when these plots begin to intersect, when Blomkvist discovers Lisbeth Salander, a young PI who specializes in less-than-routine background checks.  Once these two minds unite in a single cause, the mystery of Harriet’s disappearance begins to unravel more rapidly, and the Vagner family, some of whom resent Blomkvist’s investigation, take notice and go on defense.

Ultimately, I was surprised by the mystery’s outcome, and, frankly, I doubt that many would foresee its conclusion.

Beyond plot, Larsson triumphs with the colorful Vagner family, a motley group who are at turns laughable for the eccentricities but are always intriguing for their dark secrets and often forceful personalities.  Salander, the title character, too is a triumph, a strong, well-researched personality with many eccentricities that make her stand out.

****

Larsson, Stieg.  The Millennium Trilogy, Book One: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Trans. Reg Keeland.  New York: Vintage Crime/Black Lizard-Random, 2008.

This review is not endorsed by Stieg Larsson, Reg Keeland, Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, Vintage Books, or Random House, Inc.  It is an independent, honest review by a reader.