A crime thriller with a bisexual heroine which also speaks a great deal about feminism. One would never have imagined such a book to ever make it to a bestseller’s list, let alone being popular enough to be made into a film, or rather two films – one in the native Swedish language and another in Hollywood, but that is exactly what Stieg Larsson’s trilogy of books have managed. But this is not about the book sales; this is about the books and the world of Lisbeth Salander.
The book jackets themselves have quotes praising Lisbeth Salander as the most original heroine in fiction etc and they are right! The character of Lisbeth Salander is an incredible one. She is not the kind of heroine you would find often, she is not the kind of girl men would want but she certainly is one of a kind.
The characters and situations in the Millenium trilogy say much about society’s attitude to women, even in a country like Sweden. Not just through Lisbeth but also through the other characters. The main characters would be judged as morally ‘loose’ through the prism of sexual morals; they certainly don’t conform to what we would call the ‘normal’ sexual mores. Lisbeth Salander is herself a bisexual who in her own words looks for ‘just sex’. In fact her mildly autistic nature makes it difficult for her to connect with anyone, but we know when she does, and when she gets hurt.
The other main character Mikael Blomkvist – who would be called the hero but is rather a supporting character to Lisbeth – is a man who in the two year time sequence of the three books has slept with five women, but not once do we see him look at these women as ‘conquests’. He too is not looking for a committed relationship but he does care about these women, which is what makes him stand up for Lisbeth when she seems forsaken. These books home in the point that what matters is a person’s integrity, be it personal or professional.
In the situations that Lisbeth has faced in her life she is literally the damsel in distress but never once does she see herself as a victim. She is a flat chested, tattooed and pierced girl with an underdeveloped body. She’s also an excellent hacker with a photographic memory who lives outside the norms of society. She simply disregards laws and authority and she has good reason to.
The book traverses through rapists, wife beaters, paedophiles and stalkers who prey on vulnerable women but we also meet secret agents, soviet defectors and spies on the way. The story is about violence and double standards against women but it is after all in the crime thriller genre. Even for readers who have no sympathies for feminism, it is a page turner that will keep one hooked.
In the end, I hope there are more characters like Lisbeth Salander!