Book Review: There Are Things I Want You To Know About Stieg Larsson And Me

Title/Author:  “There Are Things I Want You To Know” About Stieg Larsson and Me by Eva Gabrielsson

Genre:  Biography, Memoirs

Published:  June 21st, 2011 by Seven Stories Press

Hardcover, 209 pages

How I Got This Book:  Checked it out from the library

Why I Picked It Up?:  I read through the Millennium trilogy and loved the story and the characters.  This biography hit the nonfiction New Books shelf right when I started working their, and I read the front flap and knew that I just had to read this.  I really wanted to find out about Stieg’s life and how it played a roll in his novels.

Book Jacket Blurb:  Here is the real inside story—not the one about the Stieg Larsson phenomenon, but rather the love story of a man and a woman whose lives came to be guided by politics and love, coffee and activism, writing and friendship. Only one person in the world knows that story well enough to tell it with authority. Her name is Eva Gabrielsson.

Eva Gabrielsson and Stieg Larsson shared everything, starting when they were both eighteen until his untimely death thirty-two years later at the age of fifty. In “There Are Things I Want You to Know” about Stieg Larsson and Me, Eva Gabrielsson accepts the daunting challenge of telling the story of their shared life steeped in love and sharpened in the struggle for justice and human rights. She chooses to tell it in short, spare, lyrical chapters, like snapshots, regaling Larsson’s readers with the inside account of how he wrote, why he wrote, who the sources were for Lisbeth and his other characters—graciously answering Stieg Larsson’s readers’ most pressing questions—and at the same time telling us the things we didn’t know we wanted to know—about love and loss, death, betrayal, and the mistreatment of women.”

My Review of the Work:

“To understand Stieg’s work, I said, one had to know who he really was.”–pg. 185

I picked up this book yearning to learn more about the author who died before his novel legacy was even published.  That fact in itself intrigued me; I just really wanted to learn more about Stieg Larsson’s life without having to deal with all of the legal mumbo jumbo that seems to be following him, even into his death.  With this relatively short biography, you get the straight facts–no beating around the bush, just the candid and honest facts–from the one constant presence in his life:  Eva Gabrielsson.

For thirty-two years, Eva Gabrielsson  was Stieg’s life partner–no, they never married, though not for lack of trying.  Job circumstances, politics, and then Stieg’s untimely death prevented them from ever making their relationship formal and legal.  Because they were not married, legally, Eva was left with nothing–she can only own half of her apartment, has no access to the bank accounts they shared, and could not legally take any part in or have control over the publication of Stieg’s novels.  But most of all, she just misses Stieg, her “soul mate”.

A general overview of Stieg’s interesting life:  He was raised by his grandparents in a little cabin in Northern Sweden.  He got involved in political activism at a young age, and consequently met Eva at a support meeting of the Front National de Liberation in Vietnam.  Stieg had so many idea, and Eva encouraged him to start writing about them and sending in his pieces to local newspapers.  Thus, his journalism career exploded.  He was involved in many controversial political arguments through the articles he wrote for many different newspapers and magazines all across Europe.  Together with a few others, he and Eva founded the magazine Expo, which wrote unbiased articles about the different political dilemmas they saw, as well as their own ideas.  And because of his involvement in journalism and political activism, his life (and, consequently, Eva’s too) was threatened on multiple occasions by multiple groups and gangs, compromising his physical safety.  And yet:

“Without Stieg’s battles and crusades, The Millennium Trilogy would never have seen the light of day.  His struggle is the heart, brain, and brawn of that saga.”–pg. 64

What I found absolutely fascinating is that almost every detail found in The Millennium Trilogy is autobiographical in some form or fashion, whether it be similar situations and problems Stieg dealt with in real life, or creating his settings based upon his favorite spots around town, or paying homage to important people in his life by literally naming a character after them.  In many ways, Mikael Blomkvist is very similar to Stieg Larsson, from the way he dresses to his passion for investigative journalism to his obsessive love of coffee.  And the addresses where all of the characters lived in his novels?  They came from the many walks that he and Eva took through the parts of town where her architectural projects were taking place, or from the plans sitting in her office, or from her most current work.  The Millennium Trilogy was born from the people and places in Stieg’s life, and this book series (intended to be 10 novels) was the impetus in Stieg taking life slower and remembering how much he cherished Eva.

Yet, inspite of all of those fascinating details, the center of this biography/memoir to me is the emotional journey that Eva is forced into (and still faces everyday) when Stieg suddenly passed away in November of 2004.  Her unconditional love and affection for her “soul mate” is so incredibly evident as she recalls his death, the preparations, the funeral, and the mythological cursing ceremony she holds for all of those individuals (work-related and political) that pushed Stieg into such a premature death.  Her grief is such a prominent part of this entire biography, and you can feel her love for Stieg from striaght off the page.  She includes snippets from her diary in 2005, where she kept ephiphanies as well as accounts of the mundane daily life, saying that “the diary was a way of proving to myself that I was alive” (pg. 159).

A majority of what is published in this diary chapter deals with the legal aftermath of Stieg’s death, and of his father and brother’s hostile takeover of all of Stieg Larsson’s estate, including The Millennium Trilogy.  This part of the biography also describes the deep emotional turmoil Eva was left in after Stieg’s death and how she learns to survive and to keep on living.  All that she continually fights for is extremely inspiring to those who knew and loved Stieg, but also to those who got to know him through reading his works.  Eva’s struggles have gone global, and many people have joined up in her fight not only to gain control of Stieg’s intellectual estate (books, articles, etc), but also to change the law so that other couples in their situation do not have to suffer through what she had–and still has–to go through.

The Millennium Trilogy is not just a good story made up by a good author of good crime novels.  These books talk about the need to fight to defend one’s ideals, and the refusal to give up, to sell oneself, or to grovel before someone powerful.”–pg. 195.

This is what Stieg Larsson did until the day of his death, and this is what Eva Gabrielsson continues to do to this day–to fight for what they believe in, and to refuse to give up.

My Bookshelf Rating:

A Fourth Shelf Read!

An easy-read if you are looking for/needing to read a biography.  But more importantly, like The Millennium Trilogy stresses over and over again, this biography gives you the truth about Stieg Larsson’s life, about his death, and about what happened after his death, all told by the person that knew him best.  What a heart-wrenching and interesting read that answers a lot of questions surrounding both the novels and his purpose for writing them.  Fans of the novels shoudl definitely read it!  You will not be disappointed!

Love and true love,
Jennifer

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