I HAVE ISSUES WITH THIS BOOK.
I am going to split this review into two posts, because the issues I have are so different and separate that it would be hard, I think, to focus on them both at once. This first post will cover the obvious themes of the book…those being: abuse, rape, misogyny, etc.
- I am always uncomfortable when a member of an oppressive group depicts any kind of story about/in the point-of-view of the oppressed group.
I think if there is ever an okay time or place to do this, it is when the oppressed group literally does not have the voice to speak for themselves (i.e. whites who wrote about slaves who were by-and-large illiterate/socially and politically silenced). The better solution, though, is always to allow the oppressed group to speak for themselves (there were plenty of black people/slaves who could, and did, speak for themselves and stimulate social change). As far as I know, women in Sweden were perfectly capable of reading and writing for themselves in 2005. Reading hundreds of pages of a guy writing about the horrors of domestic, physical, and sexual abuse of women just really rubs me the wrong way. We don’t actually need men to speak for us anymore.
I wonder how different (better?) this book and the ones to follow it could have been if written by a Swedish woman.
- I am always uncomfortable when, to avenge rape/other crimes, the rapist gets raped.
This sentiment is, unfortunately, commonplace. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “Well, at least he’ll get his turn in prison.” RAPE IS NOT A PUNCHLINE. It’s not a plot point, it’s not a joke, and it shouldn’t be avenged by more rape. This implies that in certain cases, rape is okay (or even good) WHICH IS A BAD THING TO IMPLY.
I know that the moment in the book where Salander’s rapist is suddenly her victim is supposed to be a positive, empowering moment for her, but that, if anything, just makes the moment more disturbing.
- I am always uncomfortable when a rape victim (almost always a woman), shortly after being abused, ends up in the arms of another (a man).
Look, this isn’t to say that rape victims can never enjoy sex again or shouldn’t have healthy sexual relations with anyone. Of course that isn’t what I’m saying. However, this is a technique that’s used quite a bit and it sends a disturbing message. (“Women can be broken by sex but it’s okay, they can be ‘fixed’ by sex too!”) I would have liked to see Salander be her own person for awhile. She’s emotionally cut-off as it is and tends to turn to sex in self-destructive ways, and it would have been nice to see her….not do that. It actually seems like she might not take that route, but then shortly after meeting him, ends up in Blomkvist’s bed.
Why. I can’t ignore, again, that this was written by a man.
- I am always uncomfortable when rapists or other abusers get off scot-free.
Which every man (with the possible exception of Martin, although he willingly chose his own fate so…yeah, probably) in this book does. Although Martin dies, his crimes and those of his whole misogynistic family are swept under the rug. Even Bjurman, although he is threatened into silence by Salander, arguably gets away with the damage he’s inflicted. After all, how can Salander possibly know if he abuses another woman?
Also, slightly unrelated: every time Larsson described Salander’s looks, I wanted to be blind just so I couldn’t read it anymore. ANNOYING.
Part 2 is coming soon..