Eye on Eva, Part 1: Sympathy for her plight, little charity toward her book

As every Stieg Larsson fan surely knows by now, Eva Gabrielsson, his companion and sounding board for 32 years, is in the US to promote her book, ‘There Are Things I Want You To Know’ About Stieg Larsson and Me. Welcoming her, however, was a decidedly Nordic-like blast of cold air from book reviewers. Although universally sympathetic to her plight – Stieg Larsson’s brother and father are at least $40 million richer (and counting) thanks to Stieg’s books, while Eva hasn’t gotten a penny—the critics have been considerably less charitable when it comes to her prose.

EW.com, which trumpeted Larsson’s Trilogy as “the hottest books on the planet,” blasts ‘There Are Things I Want You To Know’ as a “thin, tedious book…written in simple prose with exclamation points sprinkled seemingly at random throughout, adding fresh details but no big revelations.” (But, then, was anyone seriously expecting bombshells from the hitherto guarded Eva?) Summoning up all the good will he can muster, Rob Bruner, EW’s reviewer, gives it a mere C+. (http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20502591,00.html)

Deirdre Donahue of USA Today, another big Stieg Larsson fan, is also disappointed, rating the book a mere 2.5 stars out of four. While Gabrielsson is obviously a “fierce warrior in fighting for what she sees as justice,” Donahue says, in the end she “comes across as rigid, obsessed and humorless.” Ouch. (http://books.usatoday.com/book/eva-gabrielsson-with-marie-francoise-colomban-there-are-things-i-want-you-to-know-about-stieg-larsson-and-me/r765648)

“To be a widow is tragic; to be a widow without portfolio is a nightmare,” is the way the Los Angeles Times critic Evelyn McDonnell compassionately starts off her review. But it doesn’t take long for her to conclude that “the slim volume reads more like a court defense and less, as one might hope, as a remembrance of a writer whom millions of readers have come to love but know precious little about.” (May we humbly suggest that John-Henri Holmberg has fulfilled that hope in his remembrance of Larsson in The Tattooed Girl?) (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/books/la-et-book-20110622,0,6619255.story)

Then there is Charles McGrath of The New York Times, who interviewed Gabrielsson sympathetically in 2010 for a lengthy article on the fight for Larsson’s legacy. He chooses to damn the memoir with faint praise. It’s written in a “straightforward tone and terse, unadorned style,” he says, which, among other things, renders it “unlikely to provide much support” for the theory that Larsson wasn’t talented enough to write the series without Eva’s help. Moreover, McGrath says, the book’s scarce revelations don’t provide “much satisfaction for the many Larsson fans eager for news about an unfinished fourth novel.”(http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/22/books/eva-gabrielssons-memoir-of-her-life-with-stieg-larsson.html)

In coming days we will present a “Eva in her own words” feature that rounds up the most newsworthy things she says in her forthcoming appearances in New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, and Seattle.

In particular, we’ll be eager to learn if anyone presses her for answers on some of the points she has either been cagy or contradictory about and that interviewers have not pressed her on; e.g. does she really know where the unfinished fourth book might be? Having said last year that “I’m sure I could do it” when it comes to finishing the book does she now say it should not be written at all? Just how serious should we take her threats of a vendetta that will have her enemies trembling? Will she ever be able to put her obvious bitterness behind her?

Perhaps Millennium fans will have their own questions. We’d like to hear them.

In the end, Gabrielsson may not burnish her reputation as a writer, but she will certainly sell books. And surely create more sales for her beloved Stieg as well. Too bad that as things stand now she won’t get any of those royalties.

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