Monday, December 22, 2008

A Very Shallow Book Review: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

OK, ShallowGal is going to be honest here. She picked this book for her book club for January because it had a cool cover. And then SG would have given up after only 50 pages except that Marinka called it "the most satisfying reads of the year" on Twitter. And ShallowGal both respects and fears Marinka.

The problem is you aren't immediately sucked in, because it's hard to follow. All the characters have Swedish names. And the places have Swedish names. And they make inside Swedish jokes. And the only thing ShallowGal knows about Sweden is that it isn't in Switzerland. (1)

The book's premise is that Mikael Blomkvist has been hired to solve the 30 year old mystery of the murder of Harriet Vanger. He does so after discovering that in a snapshot taken earlier that day that Harriet wasn't looking at a clown like her friends were, but was looking a tad to the left. And had a funny look on her face. Blomkvist and his research assistant Lisbeth Salanader triangulate the angle, find someone else looking in that direction, figures out who they are by a sticker on their car, tracks them down, and voila ! Mystery solved.

This is where ShallowGal made a text to self connection. Connections are a big part of the second grade language arts curriculum, where you read a book and say hey! I have a little brother just like the main character! Or I once made cookies with my Grandmother!

ShallowGal's text to self connection: I once solved the mystery of Jimmy Carter's mother's secret Jewish past by using an old family photograph.

There's a long story explaining why this photo hangs on SG's wall (2)

If you look close enough, Carter's mother is wearing a Chai necklace, similar to the one shown below.

ShallowGal has the same necklace.
Therefore SG deduces that Lillian was secretly Jewish

Lisbeth would have scanned the family photo into her computer and use photoshop to enlarge the image and do some fancy crap to increase the contrast and get a better view. ShallowGal is just going to hold the picture closer to the built in camera on her MacBook. Then she'll use the annotate feature on preview to draw a red circle around the necklace. Similar results with less work.

This is the computer equivalent of talking louder to someone who doesn't speak English

Part of the problem is we don't know the occasion of this photograph. Lisbeth Salander was a hacker but ShallowGal is just a plain old hack. So rather than break into we'll rely on plain old wikipedia to figure out the timing.

I think we can agree that the couple on the far right are John William (Jack) Carter and his first wife. That would make the toddler with the bowl cut holding Amy's hand Jason James Carter, born Aug. 7, 1975 and the baby Sarah Rosemary Carter, born Dec. 19, 1978.

The baby is somewhere in the 3-6 month range. That puts the photo in the first half of 1979. Just months before the mysterious death of
Bertil Ohlin, Swedish economist, Nobel Prize laureate. This is just keeps getting weirder and weirder.

Ohlin, not surprisingly, also looking slightly to the left.

Carter's other 2 sons are harder to differentiate between. One is James Earl III (Chip) and the other is Donnel Jeffrey (Jeff). SG traced used this family tree to see that Donnell is married to Annette Davis who went to the George Washington University with Colin Powell who was (wait for it) was in Footloose with Kevin Bacon. How has nobody ever discovered this before?

That makes the tot in the short pants James Earl Carter IV, born Feb. 25, 1977. Although this is clearly an important occasion, he's sitting in the chair, looking not at the photographer but at a spot 27 degrees down on the floor. WTF? A toddler not cooperating in a family picture? Clearly the only thing that would have distracted him completely explains Lillian's secret Jewish past.

I've laid out all the evidence, and won't patronize you by spelling out the answer. But man, I did not see that coming.

Bottom Line: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is like a well written Swedish John Grisham novel. With Nelson DeMille's obsession with perverted sex. And some author who writes about Nazis knowledge of Nazis. Who, OMG, would not like Lillian's necklace.

Read it and see what mystery you can solve.

(1) Although SG should practically be an expert since the posse is addicted to ABBA channel 31 on XM Radio
(2)It's a good story that includes Magnum condoms and a 4 foot tall stuffed green dragon. Remind me to tell you sometime.


ShallowGal said...

PS: I hope I didn't spoil the ending. Of the book. I totally spoiled the end of the blog.

xoxo, SG

PPS: I think this review makes more sense AFTER you read the book. So go read it and then come back and comment.

David said...

You've completely lost me.

vuboq said...

are you off the meds again?

countrymouse said...

So--in 1960 something . . . or 1970 something (it was really kinda before my consciousness takes shape, i.e. I was a dumbass kid when this happened) there was a tie in an Olympic gymnastics competition between a Russian and some other girl from some other country that had recently been invaded by the USSR (and I want to say the girl was Afghanistani but that makes no sense whatsoever . . . )

ANYHOO, during the awards ceremony whilst the Soviet flag and anthem were being all worshipped n stuff, the maybe-Afghani-gymnast was looking down and to the left as a quiet political protest against the invaders of her homeland. So in the Carter Family picture with Grandma looking slightly to the left and wearing a Jewish necklace (and btw, I thought Chai was a tea thing--no offense to Judaism) Grandma is *obviously* protesting the Soviet gymnast who won the Olympics. Or the Nazis. Maybe.

Mystery solved. Call me anytime you need sleuthing : )

ShallowGal said...

K: I knew I was forgetting something! That whole Kevin Bacon thing was a red herring.

xoxo, SG

Marinka said...

I totally love this review! And you're right--with Swedish names like Mikael and Lisbeth and Harriet, it's hard to keep up!


I loved the book (and my book group did too) because I thought that Lisbeth was so compelling and I had a little crush on Mikael. And it had a cool cover.