28 June 2011

there are things you should know

I remember the first subway posters I saw for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I can't remember exactly what they said, but somehow I got the impression that it was a horror novel. Since I don't generally read horror, I just decided to be pleased that a book was getting so much advertising space, and sort of ignored it after that. Every once in a while the poster would catch my eye again, and I'd wonder what all the fuss was about, but was never really tempted to read it.

Then I read an article... somewhere. I think it was this Quill & Quire article. That led me to some Googling, and let me find out a bit more about who Stieg Larsson was, and who Eva Gabrielsson is. I also learned that those subway posters had misled me — the Millennium trilogy are a series of crime novels, and strongly feminist ones to boot.

And all of a sudden I had to read these novels. Once I finished the first one (in a day and a half of drop-everything reading one weekend), I started evangelising about them and telling everyone I knew that they had to read them too. Even I thought I was being obnoxious about it.

Every time I did a recommendation, though, I mentioned about what I had learned from my on-line news-reading: how Larsson and Gabrielsson had been a couple for decades, how they had never married so that Larsson's place of residence could be obscured, how the Swedish government doesn't recognise common-law marriages for what they are, which means Gabrielsson got nothing of Larsson's estate. She still receives nothing of the profits from the sales of the Millennium trilogy or its spin-offs.

I was thrilled to learn that Gabrielsson has written her own book: "There are Things I Want You to Know" About Stieg Larsson and Me. The ever-wonderful Carla and J-A went with me to the Swedish Consulate-hosted event to launch the book in Toronto. Gabrielsson spoke and answered questions for an hour, then signed books. It was a thought-provoking and positive way to spend Midsummer.

Gabrielsson was very thoughtful and articulate during the presentation, and already J-A and I have had some spin-off discussions based on some of the things she said that night.

I finished the book in the two days after I bought it that night. It's written in a very concise and clear style (it's not surprising to learn she's an architect by profession). Most of the book is about Gabrielsson's and Larsson's life together, rather than the aftermath of his death. There's a lot of warmth here, and a reassuring amount of humour. There were also a lot of surprises, although mostly those were in the final chapters (my head is still reeling from the "contractual" marriage proposal, if that's not too much of a spoiler).

It seems to me there are a lot of people taking the attitude of, "all the inheritance was done legally, they weren't married, suck it up." At best, this is a blatant failure to recognise the difference between what is morally right from the letter of the law.

"There are Thing I Want You to Know"... explains what is morally right, and why, and manages to be a damn good read at the same time.

Which is why everyone who has read the Millennium trilogy — and everyone who wants to fight the good fight — should read it.

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