March was a good month for book club. HAF hosted (she wanted to squeeze in one more hosting duty before her bundle of joy arrives in June) and selected an awesome book: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. A quick synopsis from Good Reads:
Harriet Vanger, a scion of one of Sweden's wealthiest families disappeared over forty years ago. All these years later, her aged uncle continues to seek the truth. He hires Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently trapped by a libel conviction, to investigate. He is aided by the pierced and tattooed punk prodigy Lisbeth Salander. Together they tap into a vein of unfathomable iniquity and astonishing corruption. An international publishing sensation, Stieg Larsson combines murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue into one satisfyingly complex and entertainingly atmospheric novel.
We really liked this book. Although the fun didn't start until about 100 pages in (the book is almost 600 pages), it was worth the wait. Set in Sweden with jaunts to London, Australia and Switzerland, the novel incorporates an insanely twisted family, corporate greed, computer hacking, weird romantic relationships and a few scenes that would be right at home in "Ocean's 11" (or 12 or 13). Stieg Larsson deftly manages to make the reader feel as though she is working right alongside Mikael Blomkvist to solve the mystery of Harriet Vanger's disapperance. I found myself racing to get to the end at 2:00 a.m. the other night (mostly because the book was captivating but also because I wanted to finish before our meeting last night). HAF had great timing with this selection; the Swedish movie version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was just released in the U.S. last week.
For some unknown reason, many of our book club selections so far have involved sexual or physical violence against women (we know this is odd given that we are a book club of women), and this pick was no different. The book's original Swedish title was Men Who Hate Women, and that theme of misogyny definitely rang true throughout the novel - there were a number of incredibly disturbing scenes that were more F-ed up than you could imagine.
In the end, the central mystery of the book (the disappearance of Harriet Vanger) was solved, and most of us didn't see it coming. What was strange, though, were the extra 50 pages after the big reveal that didn't seem to add much to the story. But then we learned from Sherri, one of our newest members, that the ending is a set up for Larsson's sequel The Girl Who Played with Fire, which Sherri found to be even better than the original.
Sherri also revealed the biggest shocker of book club so far: Sherri reads the end of a book first. Well, she reads the first 50 or so pages to get acquainted with the plot and characters, then reads the end and returns to finish the rest. It took our book club at least 20 minutes to process this information, and I'm still struggling with it. We ended the night with a rousing singing of "Happy Birthday" to MR and a special chocolate chip cake Jen picked up from Hesh's Bakery. We know it was just the first of many book club birthday celebrations to come.