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Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg

Smilla's Sense of Snow (original 1992; edition 1995)

by Peter Hoeg, Tiina Nunnally (Translator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,478111792 (3.77)312
Title:Smilla's Sense of Snow
Authors:Peter Hoeg
Other authors:Tiina Nunnally (Translator)
Info:Delta (1995), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:20th century, crime, crime fiction, danish literature. greenland, inuit, mystery, thriller

Work details

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

  1. 100
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» See also 312 mentions

English (94)  Dutch (4)  Danish (3)  Italian (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (109)
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
Plot plodded along, didn't enjoy ( )
  Carole-Ann | Aug 9, 2014 |
This is the first book I have ever read that I decided to read again, and now I'm thinking I should read several of my favorite books again because I got so much out of this one the second time around. More details stayed with me, and I had a better understanding of what was going on all the way through. Smilla is a fascinating character, in a way cold and alienated and unmoored, but at the same time possessing a strong sense of justice, courage, and the capacity to love, even though she doubts that last one all the way through. She's not the typical white-hat hero, and I really appreciated Hoeg's efforts to create a complex character. This is the type of book that makes me interested to check out some of the author's other work. ( )
  Sunrhyze | Jul 28, 2014 |
Time magazine's "Book of the year" and the literary phenomenon of the
decade: a small boy falls to his death from a city rooftop. Accident, say the police.
Murder, says his resourceful friend Smilla, who, half- Greenlander, can read the
marks left in the snow.
  TIISHARED | Jun 23, 2014 |
Like the best le Carré novels, ‘Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow’ combines a riveting plot with absorbing characterisation as well as a sense of realism for the most part. And the way Høeg goes backwards and forwards in the plot is highly satisfying. We’re led along by the mystery but we have many bits filling in the past, giving the whole text more substance and interest. Miss Smilla is obviously the most interesting character, someone who has come through a boarding school with the ongoing damage they invariably cause, and who considers herself a loner and loser although the reader finds her tenacious, sensitive and as kind as circumstances allow, someone whose side we naturally take – and I feel books that attract you to their protagonist just about always engage the reader more.

The style is also great, with little jumps from one paragraph to another. For example when she and Peter share what they know about a quarter of the way through the book, she interrupts the conversation to mention ‘The traffic starting up. The seagulls . . .’ This captures the way we’re aware of multiple things all the time and lends greater realism. I also like the way Høeg plunges into new paragraphs or sections without setting the scene but just having Smilla act and then give maybe a little explanation for this, one which keeps the reader alert.

Then there is the regular diet of thought-provoking aphorisms such the one Miss Smilla makes as she’s eating for the first time with Peter: ‘the feeling that practically everything in life is meant to be shared’, a statement that triggers some sort of response in the reader who also recognises this as a rather sad statement from a loner. Or describing the extravagant raspberry almond tart as ‘the quintessence of the middle and upper classes in Western civilisation. The union of exquisitely crowning achievements and a nervous, senselessly extravagant consumption’. Or saying falling in love ‘is a form of madness. Closely related to hatred, coldness, resentment, intoxication, and suicide’.

This book and his extraordinary ‘The History of Danish Dreams’ really make me wish I knew Danish to be able to read them in the original, especially when such a lot of this book deals with the relationship between Greenland and Denmark, a relationship which I presume has changed in the two decades since Høeg wrote this novel with Greenland’s increased home rule and apparent trajectory towards greater financial independence although maybe the way Dane think of Greenlander may not have changed much.

I guess, though, that a story with as much developing intrigue as this one has is bound to become less convincing plot-wise as it progresses. Why, for example, is Andreas Fine Licht killed before the boat is set on fire but Miss Smilla is just locked in? Shouldn’t she have been killed too? In fact, I think Høeg quite cleverly misleads the reader into thinking of Smilla as a loner when she has a cashed-up, generous father always ready to help her in any way as well as having a lover in Peter before even a quarter of the book is over. That Smilla is so capable of defending herself, able to have a better sense of direction than a GPS and cope with every situation also makes her more like a wonder-woman.

Then there are some scenes which seem dangerously close to slick or clichéd to me. I think Høeg is managing well when Miss Smilla is first clearly attracted to Peter when he writes of the way Peter blushes when he’s asked by Benedicte Clahn if he’s married – ‘A flaming, helpless blush. I notice a brief wave of heat along my inner thighs. For a moment I think someone has put something warm in my lap. But there’s nothing there’. But later we find this little soapie exchange: “’Peter,’ I say, ‘you know the old excuse that she was so drunk she didn’t know what she was doing.’ [NP] He nods. [NP] ‘That’s why I’m doing this before I drink anything.’ [NP] Then I kiss him.” Then there’s the explicit changed sexual roles which struck me as a bit of shock sensationalism.

Still, I liked the bits of humour when they came, such as when Peter and Smilla return the stolen trolley to the cleaner who’s ‘patting her vacuum cleaner, her expression is sorrowful. As if she’s been discussing how the two of them are going to manage in the big world without that trolley’.

It was worth reading the book again after twenty years – in a way it seems to me now to have been a forerunner of all those Nordic noir series such as ‘The Bridge’ and ‘The Killing’. ( )
  evening | Jun 22, 2014 |
Smillaaraq Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, known as Smilla, is half Greenland Inuit, half Danish. Having spent her childhood in Greenland up until her mother’s disappearance, she now lives in Copenhagen, but she’s very much an outsider, and she prefers it that way. When her friend Isaiah, a six-year-old neighbour and fellow Greenland Inuit, falls to his death from a warehouse roof, Smilla knows that it can’t have been an accident, but the police quickly close the case. Determined to get to the truth, she begins to investigate and very soon realises that all manners of obstacles are being thrown in her way.

Miss Smilla’s Feelings for Snow is one of those books you feel you should have read; imagine my disappointment when I realised it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Smilla Jaspersen is a fascinating character: rather direct and abrasive, but also feisty, independent and fiercely intelligent, and with a real affection for Isaiah, her neighbour. Narrated in the first person by Smilla, the prose is beautiful but sparse, and only when she talks about snow and ice does a lyrical quality enter her vocabulary. So far, so good; it’s the extremely convoluted and complicated plot that lets this book down: with so many characters’ names being thrown at you in passing, I’m afraid I couldn’t keep track and was soon lost in a mire of what motivated a particular character and where someone fitted into the puzzle. Having meandered along at a leisurely pace for large parts of the book, the novel suddenly picks up speed towards the end, and the ending felt positively rushed, so much so that it doesn't really appear to be an ending at all, leaving me baffled and with several important questions unanswered. Added to that a few plot developments that unnecessarily complicated matters but didn’t really lead anywhere, plus something straight from the X-Files, and it just about elevates this novel above a mediocre read. Disappointing. ( )
  passion4reading | Mar 30, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (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
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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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