TRIGGER WARNING: Misogyny, domestic violence, torture, rape culture
The girl with the dragon tattoo by Steig Larsson, translated by Reg Keeland
I finished the book in less that 24 hours in two sittings (I don't 'pull' all nighters any longer) so I suppose the first thing to say is that it is a page turner. Okay, it is a slow starting page turner but one which, after it finally does get up a head of steam, kept me reading nonstop until I finished it.
So on that level I certainly understand why the book became an international best seller. I get why the movie rights were snapped up.
But something still niggles.
I finished the book in a matter of hours while there are other books I have struggled with for days (and in the case of the one I am wrestling with right now, months.) But I am not sure how to rate the book. I am not sure what I would say to someone who asked me if I would recommend it.
The writing itself is competent although not great. However since I was reading it in English I cannot really speak to the writing style of the author can I? All one needs to do is read the same book translated by different individuals to know how much style can be created, changed and obscured by translators.
But something still niggles.
Finally, I realize what it is. Yes, the author was outraged at violence against women but by presenting so much of the violence as outsized and horrific he was undermining his message.
Few of us feel sympathy or empathy with serial murders. Few of use feel sympathy or empathy with sexual sadists and torturers. But that is not what most of the violence that women endure looks like.
Most of the violence and abuse that women suffer is banal. Yes it sometimes escalates to a level of abuse that the next door neighbours and the police can recognize as unacceptable. But most of the time the soul destroying violence and abuse that women suffer is not the stuff that makes for best sellers.
Most rapists don't indulge in the type of showy behaviour that if witnessed by police ensure that the victim is never doubted or questioned. Most of the men who grope women, or make threatening and demeaning comments, go home to normal looking families and normal looking homes.
I don't need a man to tell me that torturing people in dungeons is wrong. I don't need a man to tell me that raping your daughter is wrong. I don't need a man to tell me that murdering people in slow and excruciating ways is wrong.
I don't need a man to defend women by writing books full of graphic descriptions of the mistreatment and torture of women to demonstrate that other men shouldn't do such things.
I don't want to feel that the person sitting in the train station reading the best-seller about how bad it is to hurt women is having their minds eye filled of material that otherwise they could only find in torture porn magazines.
So now instead of a niggle at the back of my mind I have a question. Doesn't a book like this help the guy down the street to feel he isn't doing anything really wrong if he only slaps his wife and if he only verbally abuses his children?
 Not, of course, to the person on whom it is inflicted. But it isn't telegenic and it isn't material for an international best-seller. It just destroys the minds, souls and often the bodies of those who endure it.