Friday, 15 July 2011

Women at war

I've almost finished reading the third book in the Stieg Larsson trilogy. I discovered them here at the mill the first night we arrived, and grabbed the chance to read them all. I tried the first, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, some time ago, bogged down a third of the way through and returned it to the library unfinished. Then Lorna, at my local writers's group, shook her head and said I'd stopped reading just before the girl did something really terrible and the story took off.
How right she was!

I put aside Jilly Cooper's Jump in favour of Larsson, picked up where I left off the first time, and haven't stopped reading since. They really are good, and it's such a shame he didn't live to see the success of his books.

My crit groups recently seem full of writers who have a heroine masquerade, for various reasons, as a man. I always find this a trifle doubtful as women are basically so different, in so many ways, to men. However, the third book in the Larsson trilogy carries this homage on page 3:

"It is estimated that some six hundred women served during the American Civil War. They had signed up disguised as men....

But from antiquity to modern times, there are many stories of female warrior Amazons. The best known find their way into the history books as warrior queens, rulers as well as leaders....

On the other hand, history is quite reticent about women who were common soldiers, who bore arms, belonged to regiments, and played their part in battle on the same terms as men. Hardly a war has been waged without women soldiers in the ranks."

It isn't a new concept in fiction, but I hadn't thought it was backed up so emphatically in fact. I applaud the courage of those women, certainly, but I'm not sure I understand why they wanted to go to war. Larsson scatters other references throughout the book, and uses it as a theme of women battling against men, this time in the modern day battlefield of the courtroom. I don't doubt his sources, either.

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