Monday, July 12, 2010

My fair lady

Ask me who my favorite literary characters are and I'd be hard pressed to answer.

I have favorite fiction books, of course. 1984. The Great Gatsby. Jurassic Park. Disclosure. A Time to Kill. All Sears favorites.

But none contains a character whom I really like. Winston Smith? Nah. Ian Malcolm? Nope. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that you only get one book with most of these characters. You meet them, then they're gone. With TV shows, I feel like I know Jack Bauer, Omar Little, Walter White, Patty Hewes or C.J. Cregg.

After reading the Swedish thriller "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" I think I've found a keeper.

The over 600-page crime thriller is a worldwide bestseller. I'm not breaking any new ground, nor does the book for that matter. It resembles much of what you'd see in Criminal Minds or CSI:Wherever. Don't get me wrong, though. The book was fantastic. Gripping, intriguing, haunting, disturbing ... I finished it in a few weeks. With as much reading as I do at work, it usually takes me months to finish a book.

What sets the novel apart is the leading heroine, Lisbeth Salander. She lives off the page. I could practically see and hear her while I was reading it. She's a gothic punk super hacker who wears leather jackets, platform boots, close-cropped hair and several rings in her nose, ears and eyebrows. Of course, she also has a giant tattoo of a dragon on her shoulder blade. Having endured some unknown terrors as a child, she's extremely withdrawn and anti-social. She's very fierce and supremely intelligent, able to dig up even the most secretive person's darkest past and connect the dots to the most complicated schemes and conspiracies.

Mostly, it's her memorable attitude. You don't screw around with this one. Several people find that out in the book. She might look like a haggard puppy but if you attack her, she'll bite your head off. And she's far from a stereotype. Paired up with journalist Mickael Blomqvist, her tender side comes out. She's actually quite protective and just wants to know people she can trust.

The author, Stieg Larsson, found a goldmine here. This character lives off the page and leaves a big mark despite the fact she's disappears for huge chunks of time. The book and character are so indelible I just watched the 2 1/2 hour Swedish adaptation. Never did I think I'd be watching a movie in Swedish, but I don't regret it. The film was faithful (for the most part) and the actress fit Salander perfectly, as you can tell from the above photo.

I write this because "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" is one of my favorite books now. If you're looking for a page-turner in the Dan Brown mold, but with interesting characters and without all the symbology, then you should give it a chance. (Be warned, however. It's very twisted and dark.)

You'll grow to love Lisbeth Salander just like I did.

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