8 Reasons Why The ‘Millennium Trilogy’ By Stieg Larsson Is One Of The Best Reads Of All Time

Posted on October 29, 2014 in Culture-Vulture

By Priyambada Bhagawati:

Stieg Larsson’s millennium trilogy, namely, “The girl with the dragon tattoo”, “The girl who played with fire” and the “Girl who kicked the hornet’s nest” is a powerful read which combines a strong story with haunting characters and crusading messages. The trilogy starts with the main characters of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. Blomkvist is a well known Swedish journalist who runs his own independent magazine called Millennium, which is often used to expose politicians or public figures who are engaged in dubious activities. Lisbeth, on the other hand is introduced as a gifted, but deeply troubled, researcher and computer hacker working for Milton Security. The first book revolves around Mikael unravelling the mystery of a murdered girl named Harriet Vanger. Lisbeth helps Blomkvist in his ordeals, and even though she is in fact quite averse to most human contact, the two manage to establish some sort of relationship and start working together on the Vanger case and ultimately solve it.

The millenium series

In the second book, Lisbeth becomes the prime suspect of three murders and the focus of national police hunt. Blomkvist denies believing Salander’s involvement in the murders and thus starts his own investigation and an extremely complicated story involving former soviet spies who have defected and a cover up by the Swedish secret services unfolds. In the third instalment, everything finally becomes clear to us. Why Lisbeth was framed, who was involved in the sex trade and why it was covered up, and who is running the secret operation. The third novel mainly unravels Salander’s life, explaining what happened that made her so closed up and averse to any form of human contact.

Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy is a must read because of its strong feminist tone and chilling portrayal of how patriarchy works at different levels of life and society. The characters are written with intricate insight and layers of perpetual mystery and that makes the books “unputdownable”. The whole trilogy is a fictional demonstration of what happens to women who don’t know their place and who refuse to confine to the patriarchal-norms of the society, and also the worse that can happen when someone ultimately fights back. The best parts of the book are the fast paced sub-plots and multiple threads that emerge to be one of the most dynamic stories of all time. Here are the 8 reasons why the “millennium” trilogy is one of the best reads of all time:

1. Lisbeth Salander: Lisbeth Salander, known for her “crooked smile”, piercings, numerous tattoos and a pale, skinny body, is one of the most intriguing characters to have ever hit bookstores. With a photographic memory, a proclivity for snooping, and a genius for hacking, she’s the perfect private investigator-vigilante. She uses her PI work to make a living and, more importantly, to expose corrupt individuals. Lisbeth, a victim of childhood trauma and sexual abuse, is a character so complex and dark that it will leave the readers twitching for more of the ‘crazy-bitch’ Salander. “Don’t ever fight with Lisbeth Salander. Her attitude towards the rest of the world is that if someone threatens her with a gun, she’ll get a bigger gun.” The quote from the second book very aptly describes the guts of Salander. She protects the people who cannot protect themselves and punishes the people who deserve it. Emotionally distant, depicting symptoms of Asperger’s syndrome and aftermath of PTSD, Salander is not one of those typical heroines. She is flawed, damaged and weirdly crazy. However, Lisbeth Salander is not crazy at all. The strongest part of her sanity is that she refuses to be a victim. When she’s brutally raped by her State Guardian, she doesn’t go to the law and instead takes matter into her own hands and plots her revenge. The desire for revenge may be dangerous and self-destructive, but it’s hardly crazy, and, in Lisbeth’s case, it has a long personal history behind it.

2. Lisbeth as a construct of her own haunting past: Lisbeth Salander had a traumatic and painful childhood which was depicted in the way Salander behaved both as a child and as an adult. Her father, Zalachenko, repeatedly abused her mother. He, however, got away with his deeds because of the protection from the secret section who viewed him as an important asset for the state. Zalachenko was also responsible for destroying Lisbeth’s relationship with her twin sister and incurring permanent brain damage in her mother. Angered by her father’s antics, Lisbeth tries to kill him and is thus ultimately placed in a children’s psychiatric hospital as a legally insane patient.

Traumatised and abused, Lisbeth becomes an asocial person who would violently lash out at anyone who threatened or picked on her. This was best described when she sodomizes and tattoos the words “I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist” on the abdomen of her legal guardian, Nils Bjurmin, who previously assaulted her sexually.

3. Salander’s principles: “I call them Salander’s Principles. One of them is that a bastard is always a bastard, and if I can hurt a bastard by digging up shit about him, then he deserves it”. In Salander’s world, there’s no room for compromise. If a man hurts a woman, he deserves to die or to be punished in such a way that he can’t repeat his crimes. In this way, she poses an ethical dilemma for the readers. Each of us must decide how we feel about her actions, her methods, and her take on morality and ethics.

4. Mikael Blomkvist: Another reason to absolutely love the book is Bomkvist; a daring and unconventional investigative journalist who understands and treats Salander in the way that she deserves. Blomkvist is no prince charming and shares an equal portion of his flawed persona. Blomkvist is divorced with one daughter, Pernilla, and throughout the trilogy, has several lovers, including a brief affair with Lisbeth Salander. However, his primary partner throughout his adult life is Erika Berger, also his business partner.

Blomkvist stands by Salander, even when she refuses to see him, and also shows great integrity when he tries to defend Salander and expose the real culprits even at the risk of his own life. Another fascinating fact about the trilogy is the interesting parallel between Stieg Larsson himself and that of the character Blomkvist. Apart from Larsson being a journalist himself, when Larsson was 15, he was a witness to the gang rape of a young girl, which greatly influenced him and created in him an absolute hatred of violence and abuse against women.

5. The plot: Larsson created a story that is both hard-hitting and enthralling. The plot is rich with multifaceted characters, and fast-paced sub-plots, that makes one beg for more. The fact that some of the characters are based on real-life also makes it an interesting read. The trilogy intelligently combines the dark world of secret organizations, corruption, sex trade, sexual abuse etc., with the mundane human world of love, emotions and trust. Also the fact that the novel is based in Sweden and very well away from what we might imagine to be a stereotypical setting for a crime novel, again makes quite a difference to the books.

6. Love and sexuality: Salander’s greatest fear, which was so huge and so black that it was of phobic proportions, was that people would laugh at her feelings. (Epilogue.125)

The theme of love is described very cautiously and subtly by Larsson. Salander, an emotionally distant person with traces of Asperger’s syndrome finds herself gradually falling in love with Blomkvist. Larsson beautifully depicts her feelings when he writes, “What she had realised was that love was that moment when your heart was about to burst.” Blomkvist is the one who’s least prone to judge her. If he knew about her life, he would be entirely supportive. On some level, she does know this. This is why she falls in love with the guy. This love pushes her to face her greatest fear, as expressed in the quote up top.

However, as quickly as she fell in love, she shut herself up from Blomkvist in a lesser amount of time, the moment she realized that Blomkvist is still going out with his partner, Erica. Such was the range of emotions for Lisbeth who gradually made herself impervious to the pains of life.

Salander is shown to be a bisexual with a string of lovers during her teenage years. Mirium Wu, one of the female partners of Salander, also plays a pivotal role.

7. Realistic portrayal of Lisbeth Salander: Lisbeth Salander and her problems are real and relatable because the problems are of what many women go through daily. Lisbeth is not a superwoman with superhuman abilities. She’s a genuine possibility, and therefore far more serious as a pop-culture figure than the super-killers played by Uma Thurman in the “Kill Bill” movies or by a pouting Angelina Jolie in her kick-groin roles. Those characters have nearly supernatural physical powers. Lisbeth is fast, relentless and has a photographic memory, but that is the only extent of her powers.

8. The movie adaptations: Another reason to read the trilogy is so that you can watch the movies as soon as you are finished. The movies are well adapted with the actors plying their roles with utmost conviction. The trilogy is adapted into both Swedish and American movies. The American adaptation is widely acclaimed with Daniel Craig playing the role of Mikeal Blomkvist and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander. The third instalment is yet to be released.

The millennium trilogy is one of a kind. With the unconventional plot and the relatable characters, it makes for a gripping read. For all of you who have not read this trilogy, it is time that you put this must read into your ‘wish list’, and all of you who have read, I would just like to congratulate you on your awesome taste in books.