I’ve been spending the last few months making the rounds, visiting book clubs that have been reading Aftertaste. It has been one of the best parts of the job and probably my favorite part of promotion because: 1) I love book clubs –I’m in two of my own. 2) I’ve gotten to meet so many wonderful and interesting people—all of whom love to read as much as I do. Oh, and 3) there’s usually great food and wine to accompany the discussion!
Most of the time, people tell me how much they enjoyed the book, which, of course is lovely, but, frankly, the most interesting discussions have been over what troubled people about the book—namely Mira’s violent response to Jake’s infidelity.
I’ve heard variations on the theme of: “No woman would do that!” which invariably kicks off a spirited discussion, often dividing the room between those long married and those who have been divorced. I’ve heard several self-disclosures, my favorite from a woman who freely admitted to trying to run her husband over with her car. No names (or judgments) here.
The inevitable conclusion to these discussions is that love, thwarted or unrequited, can cause us do to all sorts of strange and out-of-character things. Most of the women who confessed to violent actions or thoughts were shocked by their own impulses.
When my agent was first shopping Aftertaste, the criticism I received early on from publishers was that they couldn’t get behind Mira. They didn’t understand her anger. She wasn’t a “regular” enough girl. How could they expect regular women readers to cheer for her? When my agent asked me if I was willing to soften her for a second round of submissions, I was torn. In the end, I did, but only a very little bit. I like Mira’s fire and, besides, I’m not such a regular girl myself.
Enter Steig Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. In the Millennium Trilogy Larsson has single-handedly elevated the female protagonist. Suddenly, we seem willing to tolerate much more from our women heroines.
For that reason, Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander has my vote for Best Actress for her wonderful performance, which managed to be both raw and nuanced, and the late Steig Larsson my tribute, for creating such a strong protagonist in Lisbeth Salander!
The real answer to who the winner is? It’s women. The chief virtue of a woman protagonist used to be that she had to be likable. I can think of scores of male heroes that I don’t particularly like, but I respect. Kudos to Steig Larsson, whose life and career were far too short, for giving us a very modern heroine who, may not be everywoman, but is a character we can both appreciate and respect.