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Smilla's Sense of Snow (1992)

by Peter Høeg

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,3451621,225 (3.75)496
She thinks more highly of snow and ice than she does of love. She lives in a world of numbers, science and memories--a dark, exotic stranger in a strange land. And now Smilla Jaspersen is convinced she has uncovered a shattering crime. It happened in the Copenhagen snow. A six-year-old boy, a Greenlander like Smilla, fell to his death from the top of his apartment building. While the boy's body is still warm, the police pronounce his death an accident. But Smilla knows her young neighbor didn't fall from the roof on his own. Soon she is following a path of clues as clear to her as footsteps in the snow. For her dead neighbor, and for herself, she must embark on a harrowing journey of lies, revelation and violence that will take her back to the world of ice and snow from which she comes, where an explosive secret waits beneath the ice.… (more)
  1. 161
    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 496 mentions

English (146)  Dutch (4)  Danish (3)  German (2)  Italian (2)  Portuguese (1)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  All languages (162)
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed Smilla’s Sense of Snow but it was more for the atmosphere than for the story. The mystery became overly-complicated and was difficult to follow at times, and while I enjoyed several characters in the first half of the book, I didn’t like anyone (including Smilla) in the second half. But I felt like I was in the ‘cold north’ and that, combined with my love of arctic survival stories, is the reason that I enjoyed this story. ( )
  dinahmine | Feb 7, 2024 |
"The body's pain is so paper-thin and insignificant compared to that of the mind."

This book was initially written in Danish and then translated into English. The story follows Smilla Jaspersen, a 37-year-old Greenlander living in Copenhagen. Smilla is a loner by nature, but there is one person in her life she feels a connection to, her young neighbour, Isaiah. This is revealed through a series of flashbacks, because in the novel’s opening chapter it is revealed that Isaiah has died following a fall off the snowy roof of their apartment block.

Accidental death say the police but Smilla knows the boy and moreover has a feeling for snow. She reads a different story in his snowy footprints. Isaiah wasn’t playing, he was running from something. Smilla decides to investigate this untimely death and soon realises that she has stumbled onto something much bigger than a solitary death. What's more she can read the smallest changes in ice and snow.

This novel is an entertaining mystery/thriller that IMHO has enough in it for anyone who is a fan of that particular genre but for me, the best part was learning about the history and culture of Greenland. Hoeg deftly explores the many problems of the colonization of this island nation, weaving historical context into his text. I started the novel knowing absolutely nothing about the relationship between Denmark and Greenland, so it was a interesting to learn something about their uneasy history. Hoeg’s prose is densely packed, full of information, action, and on occasion, wonderfully vivid imagery.

Coincidentally I started this on a day that it had started to snow in my own neighbourhood and if nothing else, it reminded me that British winters are rather tame in comparison to those endured in the bone-chilling arctic.

"Whining is a virus, a lethal, infectious, epidemic disease." ( )
  PilgrimJess | Jan 28, 2024 |
Romps along but the ending seams to cut short. Goes off in odd tangents. ( )
  SteveMcI | Dec 30, 2023 |
Good, can't-put-it-down-adventure. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 12, 2023 |
there were absolutely little gems throughout this book, but overall it was just too much. too confusing, too convoluted, too tenuous, too verbose. i'm pretty confused about how popular this was, considering how it really doesn't fit into the thriller/suspense category, or the mystery category easily, and with its length and density i don't see it appealing to such a large number of people. definitely there were parts that were great, but mostly this was not what i'd hoped.

i did enjoy learning about greenland - i found myself looking up quite a bit when reading this. and thought this bit was quite surprising:
"Some years ago they measured the light at Siorapaluk in Greenland. From December to February, when the sun is gone. People imagine eternal night. But there are stars and the moon, and now and then the northern lights. And the snow. They registered the same amount of lumens as outside a medium-sized provincial town in Denmark."

"If you consider all the unpleasantness you encounter while you're alive, it seems improbable that it would all come to an end simply because you're dead." ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Feb 24, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 146 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Høeg, Peterprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Alas, ArvoTÕlkija.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Berni, BrunoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bresnahan, AlyssaNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cruys, GerardTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
David, FelicityTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fricke, PeterSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gnaedig, AlainTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Habdzová-Chmelová, TeodoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Habich, MatthiasSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hassiepen, Peter-AndreasCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Haughton, RichardPhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helmersen, HelleEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jansen, Ine F.Narratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansen, KnutOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kertész, JuditTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Novotný, RobertTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nunnally, TinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pascual, Ana SofíaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pidgeon, RebeccaReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Posch, KristaSprechersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Redmond, SiobhanReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rottem, ØisteinAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rumac, MirkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saluäär, AnuToimetaja.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seeberg, Ann-MariTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Selvadjian, MartineTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Talvio-Jaatinen, PirkkoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vaicekauskienė, LoretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wesemann, MonikaTranslatorsecondary 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.
Quotations
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.
The number system is like human life. First you have the natural numbers. The ones that are whole and positive. The numbers of the small child. But human consciousness expands. The child discovers longing. The mathematical expression for longing is the negative numbers. The formalization of the feeling that you are missing something. Human consciousness expands and grows even more, and the child discovers the in-between spaces. Between stones, between pieces of moss on the stones, between people. And between numbers. ... That leads to fractions. Whole numbers plus fractions produce the rational numbers. Human consciousness doesn't stop there. It wants to go beyond reason. It adds an operation as absurd as the extraction of roots. And produces irrational numbers. ... It's a form of madness. Because the irrational numbers are infinite. They can't be written down. They force human consciousness out beyond the limits. And by adding irrational numbers to rational numbers, you get real numbers. ... It never stops. ... We expand the real numbers with the imaginary ones, square roots of negative numbers. these are numbers that normal human consciousness cannot comprehend. And when we add the imaginary numbers to the real numbers, we have the complex number system.
The problem with being able to hate the colonization of Greenland with a pure hatred is that, no matter what you may detest about it, the colonization irrefutably improved the material needs of an existence that was one of the most difficult in the world.
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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
Blurbers
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS
Canonical LCC

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

She thinks more highly of snow and ice than she does of love. She lives in a world of numbers, science and memories--a dark, exotic stranger in a strange land. And now Smilla Jaspersen is convinced she has uncovered a shattering crime. It happened in the Copenhagen snow. A six-year-old boy, a Greenlander like Smilla, fell to his death from the top of his apartment building. While the boy's body is still warm, the police pronounce his death an accident. But Smilla knows her young neighbor didn't fall from the roof on his own. Soon she is following a path of clues as clear to her as footsteps in the snow. For her dead neighbor, and for herself, she must embark on a harrowing journey of lies, revelation and violence that will take her back to the world of ice and snow from which she comes, where an explosive secret waits beneath the ice.

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Haiku summary
Smilla's friend is dead
After falling from a roof.
She investigates.
(passion4reading)

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