Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow: Peter Hoeg

This book begins with a funeral. A very young boy that Smilla has befriended is dead as the result of a fall off a building. The death is almost immediately declared to be accidental, but Smilla disagrees. She files a complaint, and an investigator comes out, but the investigator is not convinced. Smilla will not give up, she is determined to find out who would kill Isaac and why.

The story takes place mostly in Denmark. The last third takes place on a ship, the Kronos, on an expedition to an island off Greenland. Smilla was originally from Greenland, although her father was Danish. I learned a lot about the relationship between Greenland and Denmark. And the cold, cruel weather in both of those countries.

As you can see from the cover, the story takes place around Christmas and New Year's Day. Smilla is not fond of holidays, but her father tries to get her to celebrate with him. They have a difficult history and relationship.

This was a reread (after about 25 years so I remembered nothing about the book), and I think I loved this story more the second time.

The writing is just beautiful. It pulls you in. It took me longer than usual to read this book and that was partly because I wanted to extend the experience.

The story is written in present tense, and usually I find that distracting. However, I have found that I notice it much less when the story is also told from the first person point of view, and that works well here.

Smilla is like a pink Energizer Bunny. She refuses to be stopped and she never runs down. Or, as her friend the mechanic puts it...
"Smilla," he whispers, "when I was a child I had a tank you could wind up – with caterpillar treads. If you put something down in front of it, it would climb straight over it because it had such low gears. If the object was perpendicular the tank would turn around and crawl along the edge until it found some other way over. You couldn't stop it. You're like that tank, Smilla."
Smilla is also very intelligent with a scientific background. She is a strong female protagonist, with a mind of her own. I found her to be a very attractive character, and that was a major factor in my enjoyment of the book.

Some people don't care for the ending, and I don't want to tell too much about it. I really wasn't bothered by any aspect of the ending because I knew the story could never end the way I wanted it to.

The original language of this book was Danish, and it has been translated into English in two different versions, one published in the US (with the title Smilla's Sense of Snow), one published in the UK. There are disagreements about which translation is best. I read the US version the first time, the UK version the second time. This was not intentional, I did not know about the two translations until after I purchased my copy. I found more information at A Crime is Afoot, and here, if you are interested.

I have only given a brief overview and there is much more that could be said about this book. If you would like more detail, see Margot's Spotlight at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist...


 -----------------------------

Publisher:   Vintage Classics, 2015 (orig. pub. 1992)
Length:       410 pages
Format:      Paperback
Setting:      Denmark, Greenland
Genre:       Mystery
Translation:   Translated from Danish by F. David
Source:      I purchased this book.



21 comments:

  1. I'll have to read this one of these years!

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree, Tracy, that this is an unusual story, and Smilla is an unusual character, and yes, a strong female protagonist. I like that about her, actually. As for the ending? I think that whether it works or not is up to the reader... Thank you very much for linking to my spotlight!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your spotlight adds a lot of information, Margot, and I hope everyone checks it out.

      Delete
  3. I see that it's over eight years since I read this one, but I don't remember all that much about it. I did like Smilla though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For me, Katrina, this book is more about Smilla than the mystery. But the mystery is good too, and lots of tension. So, something for everyone.

      Delete
  4. I too read this book when it first came out, and absolutely loved it. I am tempted by your review to re-read, it would be interesting to see what I make of it now. Like you, I do not remember that much about it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Moira, I definitely think I had different reactions to this one on a second read, and liked it better. Not sure why, probably less focused on the mystery now and more on character.

      Delete
  5. I'm another who read this when it was published, but didn't like it very much and gave my copy away. I'd forgotten it until this review, but admit I'm not in the least tempted to reread it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are plenty of other books out there to read or reread, Rick. I can see why this book isn't for everyone.

      Delete
  6. It has been ages since I read this book. I can't remember the ending at all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This book felt completely new to me, Nan, and I enjoyed the experience of reading it again.

      Delete
  7. I had not known of Peter Hoeg, Tracy, but your review has persuaded me to seek him out. I hope the Smilla series is on Kindle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just downloaded Smilla's Sense of Snow. Great cover for the season, and I know I will enjoy the read!

      Delete
    2. I hope you do enjoy it, Mathew. I know that you will write an interesting review either way.

      Delete
  8. A new author and book for me, Tracy. Going by the comments, Peter Hoeg appears to be a popular writer, one I'd do well to seek out and read. I don't remember the last time I read a book in the present tense, so I can't say how I'd react to this one. But if the writing is "beautiful," then that's something else.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked the writing a lot, Prashant, but everyone has different tastes.

      Delete
  9. This is just wonderful. ..that you read this and enjoyed it, Tracy. Oh and I loved the book as well and the pace was just perfect for it. The protagonist is memorable as well. The ending wasn't what I had expected and was a slight disappointment to me but overall, an enjoyable reading experience. I had no idea about the two translations either. I read the US version which worked out fine for me but you can debate which one is best forever. Like almost everything we enjoy, it's subjective. I've heard his other works aren't as good which if true is such a shame. Glad you read it, enjoyed it and reviewed it. It's a terrific book. Have you seen the movie? I've heard it's good as well.--Keishon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I did a bit of comparison of the two translations, Keishon, and they did not seem that different to me. I guess it depends on how you read, I don't notice details so much. I did enjoy this book very much and was so glad I reread it.

      Delete
  10. This is one of my absolute favourite books ever, so pleased to find someone else who likes it as much as I do. I read it about once every two or three years I think and find I like new things about it every time. Hated the ending first time (found the story hard to follow), but it's really grown on me. Peter Hoeg is one of the few men who really can write a natural, complex, woman character IMO.

    Thank you for the link to the translation essay - I read it translated into Swedish, which possibly is closer to the original Danish but also theoretically more prone to "false friends" (not that there are any such issues in the book).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think this is the kind of book you can reread again and again and like you say, find new things in it each time.

      Delete