The Girl Who Played With Fire

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The Girl Who Played with Fire

is the second book in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy.  In the first book, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we were introduced to Lisbeth Salander, an expert hacker with a mysterious past.  In my review of the first book, I described Lisbeth as a feminist heroine who’s dark past forced her into a life heavily dependent on her keen survival instincts.  She has a loathing and distrust for most people, and thus prefers to exist within the margins of society.  Contrary to this, Lisbeth also has a compassionate side for human life and a compulsion to act when she knows someone has been wronged. I found myself intrigued by the character of Lisbeth Salander in the first book.  Larsson did a great job of teasing me with just enough information about Lisbeth that I couldn’t help but want to read his next book.

In The Girl Who Played with Fire Lisbeth Salander is back, but the story opens with a Lisbeth who almost seems to want to fit into society.  She has altered her physical appearance slightly, as well as her lifestyle – initiative that she took after capitalizing on her activities from the first book.  Despite these superficial changes, her distrust of society and authority is still firmly planted and her survival instincts override any mundane choices that any other “normal” person would make. Lisbeth is still reclusive and quiet – conscious not to reveal too much of herself to anyone.  In Lisbeth’s world, no one can be trusted.  It is a world where violence against women is committed without conscience and corruption and cover-ups have left their lasting impression on her.

In this saga, Lisbeth is our feminist heroine once again.  But this time, her past has caught up with her and she finds herself the prime suspect in a triple murder investigation involving drugs and sex trafficking.  Immediately judged by society and the authorities, not for what they think she has done, but for who they think she is, Lisbeth realizes that guilt, at least in this case, is proven by reputation, misinterpretation, and misogyny. We learn more about Lisbeth’s dark past, as Larsson peels back yet another layer of her enigmatic persona. And we find out about “all the evil” that consisted of so much violence and pain, it forever changed our heroine. 

With many of my curiosities about Lisbeth answered in this second book, I began to understand why Lisbeth is the reactive, calculating, survivor that she is.  And we find out why her feminist passions lie where they do and why her actions, at least in her mind, are justified.  One thing that surprised me about this story, was the moral dilemma I found myself in as I sympathized with Lisbeth. I now question my own feelings toward revenge and whether or not the use of violence can ever be justified given the circumstances.   I am a huge fan of Lisbeth Salander as a feminist heroine, and given her circumstances, I found myself cheering on her every move.