Monday, March 01, 2010

reading report - Feb 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson. It took me a long time to get past the first 50 pages of this book. There is a lot of setup, and a lot of the setup is boring. One wishes his editor had been a little more proactive. But once the story gets going, this is a fascinating book. There are really two entirely separate plots--one, the story of the protagonist, Mikael Blomkvist, a journalist who is convicted of libel as the novel opens; and two, the story of the Vanger family and the mysterious disappearance of young Harriet Vanger forty years earlier. The only connection between the two is that Blomkvist has been hired to write a history of the Vanger family in exchange for information that will help him clear his name in the libel suit. The second plot, the Vanger mystery, is handled brilliantly. At the beginning, it is unclear whether she has even been murdered--maybe she just ran away from her unbearable family. But as Blomkvist slowly unearths ancient clues, it becomes apparent that the truth is far more grisly than anyone's worst imaginings. The first plot-- why (or if) Blomkvist committed libel and how he makes things right-- is far less interesting. Possibly because you can't help but compare it with the more titillating second plot, which is really a murder mystery. But I still found this book well worth reading, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. The language is really awkward in places, but since it's a translation, it's difficult to tell if it's intentional on the part of the author, or if it's just difficulties in the translation.

Little Ray of Sunshine by Lani Diane Rich. I picked this up because I wanted a quick, easy read for a road trip. The "quick" part turned out to be accurate-- I read it in an afternoon and evening. The "easy" part was somewhat less true. It's the story of Emmy James, who left home in the middle of the night six years before, abandoning her boyfriend Luke and his family, to get away from her nightmare of a mother and her painful past. When she finally returns, she finds that her mother has been in therapy and turned herself around, and the witch she remembers no longer exists. This is the first novel I've read by Rich, and I was impressed with her skillful handling of the mother-daughter relationship. She gets it right. And although she manages to get them to a truce in the end, no punches are pulled. It was at times a difficult, emotionally wrenching read. Far less convincing was the way EJ repairs her relationship with Luke. So much attention is paid to EJ's mom that Luke never really comes off the page. But you don't really care, because Little Ray of Sunshine is far more the story of the reconciliation between a mother and daughter than it is a romance.

I'd recommend both of these. For some reason I'm having a hard time giving them a "grade" like I usually do. I have read quite a bit besides these two-- in fact, I had finished both of these by mid-month and I had to pull them back out to remember names. But I have three I'm reading right now and haven't finished them yet, so they'll have to wait for next month.

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