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Book Club - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Thursday, 26 November 2009

A few weeks ago, you the viewers chose The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson as November's book of the month. We invited viewers to read along with us and send in their thoughts and to participate with their book clubs.

Today we will chat about the book with the author and sometimes Irish Times books reviewer Peter Cunningham and 3 members of an Ennis book club Natalie Arkins, Mary Donnelly and Cathy McDermott.

Peter Cunningham

Author and sometime reviewer for The Irish Times.
'The Sea and the Silence' is published by New Island

Peter Cunningham is best known as a regular books reviewer for The Irish Times and as the author of the Monument novels. Set in the fictional landscape of Cunningham's native city and surrounding countryside, these stories, beginning with Tapes of the River Delta, are about Irish people and their lives and loves from the late 19th century to the present day. The novels have been widely acclaimed, in Ireland, the UK and US, and in translation.

Consequences of the Heart was short-listed for the Listowel Writers prize. "A masterful, funny and moving story steeped in Irish and European tradition," the Observer said in its Book of the Week review. "It is a triumph," said the Irish Times.

Of Love in One Edition, the third in the series, the London Times said, "Beautifully written with moments of calm insight."

Booker prize winner Roddy Doyle said of The Sea and the Silence, published in 2008: "It is a truly terrific novel - moving and hugely entertaining."

Cunningham's best selling novel, The Taoiseach, laid bare the corruption and dishonesty at the heart of contemporary Irish politics and was greeted in Ireland with both acclaim and controversy.

Peter Cunningham has judged the Glen Dimplex New Writers Awards. He is a member of Aosdána and lives in County Kildare.

3 Book Club members: Ennis Book Club

They have been meeting in each others homes since 2001, once a month, from 9pm to midnight. They have tea, coffee, wine and nibbles. They read a book a month and have a great chat about the book and related subjects, as well as a good social catch up. There are 12 members including France O'Gorman who organizes The Ennis Book Club Festival in March each year. Usually about 8-10 people make it along each month, as many of the members travel for work.

Natalie Arkins
Mary Donnelly
Cathy McDermott

Peter Cunningham Review
Very successful, gripping story, 12m copies sold worldwide. It is the latest in a tradition of Swedish crime thrillers, Peter Hague, etc. What distinguishes this one is that he has a truly unique heroine, Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She is borderline Asperger's syndrome, aged 24 but looks about 16years old, with a photographic memory. She joins the main character Mikael Blomkvist to solve this 40 year old history of a missing heiress. Larsson draws on Agatha Christie in this book - he assembles all the suspects in one place, like in Murder on the Orient Express, Death on the Nile etc, here all on an island north of Stockholm. The heroine and the man she's working with Blomkvist are on this island trying to solve the 40 yr old mystery. She is a fascinating character. We also get an interesting insight into Swedish society, in that she is almost 25 years old, yet she is still a ward of court, and the abuses she is subject to. It takes you 150 pages to get into the book. The Girl Salander gets you into it more. It is debatable whether he provides much of a climax... this is difficult when you are ratcheting up the story, to then bring it to a head. The character of the girl is what makes it unusual.

How long did it take the club members to get into the book?

Natalie Arkins
I loved the book, although you could tell it was not written in English, the translation seems a little stilted or stiff. I think the book brings up a couple of issues that people resonate with right now, which is why it is so popular. First, it's the exposure of the upper classes abuses- from scandals with money and finances to serial killing, incest and rape. This exposure comes from an underdog- Lisbeth Salander, a character that is considered mentally unfit and unable to cope with her life by the "system", but is actually very intelligent, a computer genius. Her story also brings up the next important theme- that women are the weaker sex- somehow less intelligent, less able to take care of themselves. This is highlighting the battle between the sexes, and shows that apparently weak and unfit women can actually be very smart and have unbelievable strength. It is more that society has labeled them- judged them for being female, without acknowledging their true strengths. I really felt that the author was highlighting this in the story to make people rethink their own judgments about wealthy people and women in general.
The male characters, on the other hand, tended to be either evil characters, or came across as wishy-washy and not really knowing what they wanted, and easily tricked by females, such as Lisbeth, into thinking she was stupid.

Mary Donnelly
Quite riveting, a long time since she has read a crime thriller, used to be interested in it but not in a long time. So many characters in it, she focused on the 2 main characters. Took her about 89 pages to get into it, thought she wouldn't enjoy it then she did. The lead in was very meandering a lot of layers. Crime journalism.
Salander was quite amazing, not developed, still a mystery, getting ready to read the 2nd book in the trilogy. Blomkvist is such a nice character, but he needed other people to make it interesting. Larsson made him an interesting character. Based in Sweden, interesting how different their society was and his relationship was. Salander got something new from Blomkvist, want to know more about her background. Also the title was originally "Men who hate Women" so that's quite significant. The translation is obviously different. Highly entertaining but also a serious story. Got quite a poor review, why? She loved it, couldn't put it down.

Cathy McDermott
Very good read. A page turner. Took about 80-100 pages to get into the real story, a lot of background until page 80, then excellent. Maybe that's because he's a journalist. Huge amount of information in it, like Sweden, the history, industrialism, anti-Semitism, wealthy families. Ending where he didn't report the women who wouldn't have been missed, vulnerable women. Makes you think when you hear of violence against women these things can happen so easily if you have a bit of money. The journalist came out a lot in Larsson than a fiction writer. She loved the statistical notes, very interesting. Not just a thriller, a dark story, got you thinking about so many things. Ethics etc. A money issue that he didn't reveal the crimes. bit unclear why he didn't tell the truth. Salander (tattoo girl) was an intriguing character, Asperger's syndrome. When her feelings did come through at the end she had to push them away. Something very sinister about her. Very much the main character in it. Blomkvist - What a casual relationship he had with Erika very continental, very likable, soft, and clever in how he handled the family. She will definitely read the second book. At the end it came to a very quick conclusion, after we knew about Martin and Gottfried's dark crimes, it slowed down, then the rest if it was page killers. It could have ended at that stage.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson - Quercus €8.99

In this compelling mystery, a Swedish heiress disappears from her family's secluded island. Her uncle hires a disgraced journalist to investigate the case with help from the girl with the dragon tattoo.