The night before I headed off for London I suddenly decided to download something different onto the e reader. It's already stuffed full of classics and a wonderful selection of out of print books from girlebooks, then Ellen in New York had alerted me to netgalley. I'd requested a copy of the forthcoming volume of letters between William Maxwell and Eudora Welty, plus they had David Vann's new novel Caribou Island so I added that, then I'd downloaded the last few editions of Five Dials, including the latest Quebec issue, so surely plenty to read there, ninety books to choose from should be enough to keep even me going.
But suddenly I wanted something contemporary and involving, plot driven and easy to pick up and put down, no hidden depths just a good old story and involving enough to block out all background noise because I've changed my tack on the train recently. Instead of Coach A, the Quiet Carriage, where every cough assumes excruciatingly annoying proportions and the sight of someone cheating and using a mobile gives rise to a very distracting inner apoplexy, I've moved along to Coach D, the Entertainment Carriage where it's all hell let loose. People managing multi-nationals and hiring and firing over their iPhones, little airline-style screens on the back of the seat in front where for £3.50/ 24 hrs you can watch old episodes of My Family and The Office, yet somehow I find it easier to block out the mayhem and concentrate. Even better it's nearer Coach F which is the buffet and when you get to Paddington Coach D stops right by the stairs for the Hammersmith & City Line tube.
These things matter.
So I browsed and I pondered and eventually splurged my Waterstone's Card points on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, of which I'd heard much but knew very little. 775 reviews on Amazon over half of which give it 5* while seventy give it 1*.
I do have to agree with the person who suggests it gets off to a bit of a pedestrian start which requires some perseverance, and someone else who thinks the translation's a bit wooden, whilst I'm nodding in agreement about the rather odd product placement references often very in depth... I could probably build my own Mac computer now with bits we've got in the shed.
Someone else reckons money and favours have changed hands to get the ecstatic cover quotes (which of course I couldn't see on my e reader) whilst one poor soul of the 70 x 1* cohort couldn't get the hang of the Swedish place names and thinks the whole lot should have been relocated and the names changed to English.
Lisbeth Salander the heroine comes in for some stick for being so...well so thin and stick-like and so clever, the world's best hacker and apparently one step away from 'wish fulfillment' according to the person who had wanted it all relocated to Wiltshire or somewhere. Someone else found gaping holes in the plot and left it on the bus rather than carry it an inch further and then felt bad that whoever finds it will also lose several hours of their life discovering likewise, whilst another suggestion was that Enid Blyton contained more reality than this, though for the little I know about sado-masochism and sociopaths, those bits seemed as real as anything Noddy and Big Ears could conjure up.
So you can see I'm a little torn because I suspect The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo might be one of those books, a bit like Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, which readers who take themselves seriously and want others to do likewise should steer clear of. There must be diatribes about poor writing, and absent editors who should have lopped off 200 pages at least, then we must bemoan the demise of the nation's reading standards if everyone's giving this 5* when it's so clearly rubbish...except thankfully I'm not any of those so I can tell you unashamedly that I really enjoyed it.
Never has the train arrived in Paddington quite so fast before, never have I been sneaking a few more pages on the platform and then a few more between tube stops, never have I felt slightly sick at the thought that the battery might run out on the e reader and where would that leave me on the journey home, and never have I arrived home and turned my back on a book I am loving (Romantic Moderns) in order to switch the e reader on and finish this one first. I wouldn't give it 5* but nor would I give it 1*, anything that gets me to London and back and doesn't send me to sleep is good enough for me and the e reader perfect for the book you might not want to keep on the shelves.
By the way, what do you think...I'm considering buying a Kindle. With apologies to Sony, Amazon are streaking way ahead with this thing, a far greater selection of books and all much cheaper than Waterstones, and whilst I know all this is really exercising the publishers at the moment it's a question of basic economics out here and needs must. Whilst never replacing books, to my complete surprise the e reader has slowly but surely become intrinsic to my reading life and I wouldn't be without it.