Jan 11th, 2011 by Lisa
The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson
The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second book of the Millennium series. In this book we develop a deeper understanding of Lisbeth Salander and Larsson masterfully crafts your wavering feelings for her. We are also introduced to the second most fascinating character in the series – the blond unfeeling giant with a childlike face and high pitched voice. In this book, Salander is wanted for murder and as her past comes back to haunt her we learn how Lisbeth became a threat to national security.
From the Publisher (Vintage)
Mikael Blomkvist, crusading journalist and publisher of the magazine Millennium, has decided to run a story that will expose an extensive sex trafficking operation between eastern Europe and Sweden, implicating well-known and highly placed members of Swedish society, business, and government.
But he has no idea just how explosive the story will be until, on the eve of publication, the two investigating reporters are murdered. And even more shocking for Blomkvist: the fingerprints found on the murder weapon belong to Lisbeth Salander—the troubled, wise-beyond-her-years genius hacker who came to his aid in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and who now becomes the focus and fierce heart of The Girl Who Played with Fire.
As Blomkvist, alone in his belief in Salander’s innocence, plunges into an investigation of the slayings, Salander herself is drawn into a murderous hunt in which she is the prey, and which compels her to revisit her dark past in an effort to settle with it once and for all.
Book Club Party Ideas for The Girl Who Played With Fire
For more book club party ideas and recipes, visit The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo post.
Salander continues to wear her offbeat t-shirts, such as “Consider This A Fair Warning” (page 20). Ironically, her hands were tied behind her back with a t-shirt that says “You Have The Right To Remain Silent” (page 138)
In The Girl Who Played With Fire, Lisbeth reads mathematical textbooks for pleasure. If you are looking for the textbook Dimensions in Mathematics, you are going to have to give up your search. Harvard University Press denies ever publishing the textbook and says “We can only speculate about what Dr. Parnault would have been like, had we actually known or published him, and as for the contents of his mythical “Dimensions,” well, that’s an even greater mystery.” See their full post here.
So, for decorations, any mathematical textbook will do. Lisbeth shops for furniture for her apartment at IKEA. Decorate with IKEA furnishings (the picture was taken in front of our Pax Hemnes doors) or knick knacks, such as these jointed wooden people acting out a scene of Salander kicking butt. There is a reason the book is called The Girl Who Played With Fire so be sure to include something flammable in the decorations…I recommend candles.
Book Club Menu for The Girl Who Played With Fire
The characters in the book drink lots of coffee…at least 4 cafe lattes were imbibed in the first 100 pages. I do not have an espresso machine, so when I am craving a Cafe Latte, I whisk the milk with a little vanilla in a saucepan on the stove top. The results are amazingly delicious!
Their diet consists primarily of food from 7-Eleven and they eat tons of Billy’s Pan Pizzas, a microwave pizza sold in Sweden.
Microwave pizza does not sound like an appetizing dish for a book club party. In another section of the book, Salander had a Brie baguette (page 82) before heading to IKEA. I decided to combine these two foods into a Brie Pizza on a Baguette.
Book Club Resources for The Girl Who Played With Fire
Ratings at the time this post was published
- Amazon: 4 stars (1114 reviews)
- Goodreads: 4.16 stars (60,416 reviews)
- Barnes and Noble: 4.5 stars (4280 reviews)
- My Rating: 4.5 stars. This book drew me in faster and more intensely than The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I gained a better understanding of Lisbeth and actually started to genuinely like her. Once I started this book I could not put it down. I am tempted to give it 5 stars.
- “Lisbeth Salander could be the female Jason Bourne . . . It’s an intelligent, fascinating story that draws readers in, and keeps them turning the page.” —Associated Press
- “A combustible new thriller . . . Extremely well-written—Larsson’s minimalist prose is frosted with Scandinavian cool. . . . Burns with blue-flame intensity. . . . Larsson keeps a tight rein on the bullet-train plot.”—San Antonio Express-News
- “I don’t know how Larsson does it – his books are pretty far outside of my normal reading preferences, in a genre that I’m not crazy about, and have little about them on the surface that would suggest that I would like them… and yet I find them totally fascinating.” – Fyrefly’s Book Blog
Purchase The Girl Who Played With Fire at your favorite bookseller
Book Club Discussion Questions for The Girl Who Played With Fire
- Have you read The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo? How did your knowledge—or lack of knowledge—about that novel affect your reading of this one?
- Discuss the prologue. What did you think was going on? At what point did you fully understand it?
- On page 26-27, Larsson writes, “Within mathematics, assertions must always be proven mathematically and expressed in a valid and scientifically correct formula.” What does this have to do with the plot of the novel? Why is Salander so intrigued by mathematics?
- Outwardly, Salander is supremely self-assured. Why does she have breast augmentation surgery?
- Ultimately, does Salander’s agreement with Nils Erik Bjurman pay off? In what ways?
- Revenge is a major theme of the novel. Who seeks it, and what are the results?
- Discuss gender politics as they affect the plot: the treatment of Salander, Erika Berger, Miriam Wu, Sonja Modig, and the trafficking of Eastern European women. What do you think Larsson was trying to say about the role of women in society?
- On page 131, Berger thinks about Blomkvist: “He was a man with such shifting traits that he sometimes appeared to have multiple personalities.” Given that the reader is allowed inside Blomkvist’s head, does this seem like an accurate description to you? How is Berger right in her assessment, and how is she wrong?
- Twice in the novel, Salander and Blomkvist refer to his assertion that “friendship is built on two things—respect and trust.” Who is a true friend to Salander? Is she a true friend to anyone? What about Blomkvist? Is he a good friend to Salander, to Berger, and to others?
- Discuss the arrangement agreed to by Berger, Blomkvist, and Gregor Beckman. How does this benefit each of them? Does it hurt them?
- When Dag Svensson and Mia Johansson were murdered, what was your first response? Who did you think was the killer? Who did you think was Bjurman’s killer?
- Why does Blomkvist give Salander the benefit of the doubt, when so many others don’t?
- When newspaper articles begin to appear featuring interviews with long-ago acquaintances of Salander, did it change your perception of her character? Discuss the nature of truth in these instances: is it possible both sides were remembering accurately?
- Discuss Dr. Peter Teleborian. What role does he play, and why?
- Why does Berger put off telling Blomkvist about her new job? What will the ramifications of the new job be?
- On page 403, Salander thinks, “There are no innocents. There are, however, different degrees of responsibility.” What is the significance of this statement? How does Salander use this notion to guide her actions?
- On page 580, Blomkvist calls Salander “the woman who hated men who hate women.” Is this an accurate assessment? How did she end up this way? How does it affect her behavior?
- In what ways is Salander like her father and half brother? In what ways is she different?
- Toward the end of the novel, does Blomkvist do the right thing by having Berger deliver only part of the story to Jan Bublanski and Modig? What do you think he should have done?
- Holger Palmgren tells Dragan Armansky on page 614, “What happens tonight will happen, no matter what you or I think. It’s been written in the stars since [Salander] was born.” Why does he feel this way? Is he right? How does his inaction affect the outcome of the story?
- Discuss the ending. Were you satisfied? What more, if anything, would you like to have had happen?
- If Stieg Larsson were still alive, what one question would you most like to ask him?
About the Author
On the website, there is an interview with Eva Gabrielsson, his life partner. Despite living together for over 30 years, Eva was not entitled to any of his estate or the proceeds of his writings and was uncertain if she would even be able to stay in the house she shared with him. They were reportedly never married because they would have had to publish their address, possibly endangering their lives due to Larsson’s reporting on extremist groups and the death threats he received.
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