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Smilia's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Smilia's Sense of Snow (original 1992; edition 1993)

by Peter Hoeg

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5,564115774 (3.76)325
Title:Smilia's Sense of Snow
Authors:Peter Hoeg
Info:Farrar Strauss Giroux (1993), Hardcover
Collections:Read in 2013, Read but unowned
Tags:READ 2013

Work details

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow by Peter Høeg (1992)

  1. 100
    The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (taz_)
    taz_: Charm school drop-outs Lisbeth Salander of "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" and Smilla Qaaviqaaq Jaspersen of "Smilla's Sense of Snow" strike me as unconventional soul sisters of the detective mystery. Each haunted by demons of the past, fiercely independent, armored in cynicism and misanthropy, they share a certain psychic landscape and brilliant, icy resourcefulness. If you love one, I predict you'll love the other.… (more)
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» See also 325 mentions

English (101)  Dutch (4)  Danish (3)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (116)
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
Short review: Book not what I expected from the title (not a bad thing at all), loved the first half, bemused, confused and disappointed by the second.

To elaborate, I knew nothing about this book other than the title before I picked it up at a second-hand shop. Based purely on that title, I would have expected something a bit whimsical, feminine, semi-magical perhaps. What I certainly did not expect was a kick-arse, hard-nosed lead character embroiled in a complex, high-stakes murder/thriller plot, encased in beautiful and technically brilliant prose. I asked a couple of reading friends if they knew anything about the book and they said they had assumed the same as myself and were surprised and interested when I raved about the quality and nature of the text.

That was while I was still reading the first half i.e. before Smilla leaves Copenhagen. Everything was tight, I had very clear images of each and every, brilliantly individualised character. The story was exciting and the plotting faultless.


What happened? I thought it was just me, but have read other reviews that say the same thing so it can't be. Dozens of new characters are introduced (at least it seemed like that many) and only a couple of them are ever sufficiently developed (Urs and Jakkelsen), the rest remaining, for me, practically interchangeable and amorphous. Credibility is stretched beyond breaking point on a regular basis, and the structural integrity of the plot goes completely to blazes.

I guess there's a small possibility that at least part of the problem lies in the translation, but the first half is SO good that I find that difficult to believe. Also, the actual beauty of the prose does not diminish in the second half: it's in the plotting and character development that the ball is well and truly dropped.

Then there's the ending. I can't say anything that's not a spoiler, but let's just leave it with the fact that it was like a hard slap in the face. Wondering if I had missed something, I reread the last few chapters a second time. No dice, still a highly disappointing mess. ( )
  Vivl | Feb 24, 2015 |
"Deep inside I know that trying to figure things out leads to blindness, that the desire to understand has a built-in brutality that erases what you seek to comprehend. Only experience is sensitive. But maybe I'm both weak and brutal. I've never been able to resist trying."

Smilla's story is a complex one. It is in part a thriller about the suspicious death of a young boy and a woman's unrelenting search to find out the truth despite the danger to her own life. But it's also a character study about Smilla, a half Greenlandic, half Danish woman whose years of growing up on the ice as a child has taught her and innate sense of the subtleties of snow and ice, a woman like an iceberg, whose surface hides much larger depths within.

The pace is too plodding and contemplative to be a page turner as I would expect a thriller to be, but there are moments that are gripping. I enjoyed working my way through this.

However, I have a love/hate relationship with the ending. I don't know what to do with it or how to feel. On the one hand, it's clever and suits Smilla's personality perfectly. On the other hand, it's clever instead of satisfying and that pisses me off. ( )
  andreablythe | Feb 14, 2015 |
I enjoyed this book, but felt it got a little slow in the middle at times.

The first 200 pages had me gripped - the descriptions of Denmark, of Greenland, of the winter landscapes, were a vivid and tense scene in which to set the story, and I enjoyed being transported into lands I know little of, told from the perspective of the protagonist who has lived in both. The complexities of Smilla's relationships with the mechanic and her father were intriguing, and up to that point it was a definite page turner, both in terms of plot and depth of characterisation.

Somewhere around the middle of the book it lost pace, however. The period on the boat went on for at least 75 pages too long, and I found myself caring little for what happened to the protagonist, or for finding out what had really happened to the boy, which was the whole point of the book. Smilla became less believable - originally characterised as a fairly ordinary lady who wanted to see justice done, she began to enter the realms of being some kind of fantasy wonder woman.

In all, it became disappointingly far fetched and Hollywood-esque - perhaps the author had his eye on the movie that was to come all along. ( )
3 vote AlisonY | Jan 18, 2015 |
ICE ICE baby. Oh, these cold weather authors -- so alienated and contained. This is a fine mystery and very atmospheric. Have something warm to drink nearby because you will need the comfort -- but you might need to tear yourself away to microwave it when you realize that you are shivering and have let your drink go cold.
  Kelley.Logan | Jan 16, 2015 |
Smilla is part Eskimo but lives in Copenhagen and keeps to herself. When her six year old neighbor is killed, she refuses to believe that it was an accident and ventures off to investigate. ( )
  creighley | Oct 31, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 101 (next | show all)
Smilla Jasperson is half Danish, half Greenlander. Brought up in Greenland till her mother died, she now lives in Copenhagen and has a distant relationship with her Danish father. Isaiah, a boy she has befriended and also a fellow Greenlander, is found dead in the snow with no tracks near him, apparently having jumped off a roof. But Smilla has a feeling for snow, and she knows Isaiah had a fear of heights. The police mark his death down as a suicide despite her complaints. The novel explores her efforts to find out the truth about Isaiah’s death, a search which encompasses the Cryolite Corporation Danmark and several ill-fated expeditions to Greenland over the years since 1939.

The book is strong on the injustices suffered by the native peoples of Greenland yet acknowledges the improvements in Greenlandic existence brought about by Western influences.

Høeg presents Danish life as overly bureaucratic in comparison to the freer ways of Greenland – it seems there are forms to be filled for everything - but it certainly seems so even in relation to the UK. He has a marked tendency to introduce scenes part way through before flashing back to their entry point and also a prodigious habit of describing settings minutely. Smilla’s back story is interweaved with the scenes in such a way as to be almost integral, as if the story could not have been written in any other style and these digressions rarely, if ever, interrupt the flow. That this seemingly artless artfulness works and never becomes annoying is a tribute to Høeg’s skill as a writer.

While towards the end the book loses its focus slightly, even veering a little unconvincingly towards SF territory before drawing back, the novel is always engrossing.

Miss Smilla’s Feeling For Snow is not unputdownable (no book ever truly is) but it does get very close.
added by jackdeighton | editA Son Of The Rock, Jack Deighton

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Høegprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Berni, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cruys, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
David, FelicityTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haughton, RichardPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nunnally, TinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pascual, Ana SofíaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Краснова, ЕленаTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
Tr. Tiina Nunnally, US publication:

It's freezing - an extraordinary 0 Fahrenheit - and it's snowing, and in the language that is no longer mine, the snow is qanik - big, almost weightless crystals falling in clumps and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost.
Tr. 'F. David' (Tiina Nunnally, plus changes by the publisher and author), UK publication:

It is freezing, an extraordinary -18°C, and it's snowing, and in the language which is no longer mine, the snow is qanik - big, almost weightless crystals falling in stacks and covering the ground with a layer of pulverized white frost.
Det fryser ekstraordinære 18 grader celcius, og det sner, og på det sprog som ikke mere er mit, er sneen qanik, store næsten vægtløse krystaller, der falder i stabler, og dækker jorden med et lag af pulveriseret, hvid frost.
This winter I've been able to watch the ice forming
"Even if they ripped off your arms and legs, you'd find some way to kick back,"~ Verlaine to Smilla
The bad thing about death is not that it changes the future. It's that it leaves us alone with our memories.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Original title: Frøken Smilla’s fornemmelse for sne
US Title: Smilla's Sense of Snow
UK title: Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Smilla Jaspersen susjeda je maloga Grenlanđana koji je, po svim indicijama, nesretnim slučajem pao s krova punog snijega. Policija bi željela zaključiti slučaj, ali Smilla, inače znanstvenica koja se bavi istraživanjem prirode leda, analizirajući dječakove tragove zaključit će kako pad nije bio slučajan, i tako će početi njezina mala privatna istraga. Povezujući niz naoko nevažnih pojedinosti, Smilla će pokušati razotkriti sponu između nekad moćnog poduzeća Kriolit, odvjetničke tvrtke Hammer & Ving, profesora eskimskih jezika dr. Lichta i uvaženoga državnoga sudskog patologa Johannesa Loyena.
Haiku summary
Smilla's friend is dead
After falling from a roof.
She investigates.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385315147, Paperback)

In this international bestseller, Peter Høeg successfully combines the pleasures of literary fiction with those of the thriller. Smilla Jaspersen, half Danish, half Greenlander, attempts to understand the death of a small boy who falls from the roof of her apartment building. Her childhood in Greenland gives her an appreciation for the complex structures of snow, and when she notices that the boy's footprints show he ran to his death, she decides to find out who was chasing him. As she attempts to solve the mystery, she uncovers a series of conspiracies and cover-ups and quickly realizes that she can trust nobody. Her investigation takes her from the streets of Copenhagen to an icebound island off the coast of Greenland. What she finds there has implications far beyond the death of a single child. The unusual setting, gripping plot, and compelling central character add up to one of the most fascinating and literate thrillers of recent years.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:12 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen investigates the mysterious death of a six year old Inuit neighbor in Copenhagen.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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