Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Stellar Sequel

I like to think I have a certain amount of self awareness. One of the things I'm aware of is that I am one hell of a judgemental bitch.

Case in point, We Need To Talk About Kevin.. This book was clearly a phenomenon. Everyone was reading it, and I saw it everywhere - supermarket shelves, back seats of cars, stashed in pushchairs... I just randomly decided, from looking at the cover, that this was a story about child abuse (I think there was something else with a similar cover out at the time, that had that theme), and decided not to read it. Years go by before I find a list of award winning books that I haven't yet read, and realise that it's being nominated by panels I respect. I finally get around to reading a synopsis on Amazon (before I swapped allegiance to Waterstones) and realise that this is actually a book that I would probably enjoy. Enjoy it I did. More than that, I loved it. Just goes to show, what they say is true.

A second example of what I would have missed out on had I stuck to my badly-sighted guns, was Girl With a Dragon Tattoo. In my head, this was going to be something akin to an autobiography of Donna Martin, post a wild girls night with Brenda. Anyhow, it transpires that I was wrong, and the book was a brilliant thriller that was the first book in a long time that I couldn't put down. I wonder to this day if the meeting rooms and biscuits I ordered to help me find the time to read it will ever come back to haunt me. I couldn't wait for the sequel, and finally got to it on Saturday, which I finished at 1 am on Sunday, which is a clue to how I felt about that.

The Girl Who Played With Fire had a lot to live up to, following the pleasure I'd taken from its predecessor. Who would have thought that it would actually have surpassed it! I had an inkling about how the story would play out, since I'd read the synopsis to The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets' Nest (if you've read these, wouldn't wasp nest be better? Perhaps it was lost in translation). Still, there were more twists and turns and links and hints than in Wild Things . The first book was essentially about a somewhat idealistic journalist and a largely amoral woman-child trying to solve a decades-old mystery. The characters were developed and rounded, and the mystery was intriguing, with enough clues in the right places to make the ending acceptble, without being necessarily solveable. The second built on the woman-child and her history. There was a strange introduction, which I think sets the readers off in the wrong direction, but the tale manages to offer enough of a story for that to be overlooked. It takes place two years after the first book ends and brings back several characters from the first book who had initially seemed to be mere distractions. In the sequel there were more secondary characters, which is leaving me very excited about the final book in the trilogy. The story in the sequel is, again, complex and near-impossible to solve, although everything does fit together. I do wonder if this is because I know so little about Sweden and the way its society works. The theme of vengeance against misogyny continues through both books, and it reminds me of Sweden's reputation for being the most gender-equal society in the West.

All in all, I think everyone should read these and tell me what they think!


ADub said...

cannot wait - have 100 pages left in the first one and can't say enough good things. bring on the second!

JamTam said...

I'll try to remember to bring it with me on Saturday. Hmm. might pre-order the last book.

Michelle said...

No one seemed to be reading We Need To Talk About Kevin much in Singapore so I didn't have the opportunity to be judgemental about it, but I'm sure I would've been if in your position! Lucky escape for me I guess - I've recommended that book to countless people since I read it.

And I have judged Girl With A Dragon Tattoo all along, with less precision than what you described as your initial impression. I've basically been burned a few times now by books which are extremely popular on Amazon but which, upon reading, turn out merely "okay, if your buttons are THAT easily pushed". (If you get what I mean.) I shall try it now purely on the strength of your recommendation. :)