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Smilla's Sense of Snow Paperback – October 1, 1995

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Editorial Reviews Review

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The title of this quiet, absorbing suspense novel by a Danish author only suggests the intriguing story it tells. After young Isaiah Christiansen falls from a snow-covered roof in present-day Copenhagen, something about his lone rooftop tracks--and the fact that the boy had a fear of heights--obsesses Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, a woman who had befriended him. Smilla is 37, unmarried, and, like Isaiah, part of Denmark's small Eskimo/Greenlander community. She is also a minor Danish authority on the properties and classification of ice. Her search for what had frightened the boy leads her to uncover information about his father's mysterious death on a secret expedition to Greenland, a mission funded by a powerful Danish corporation involved in a strange conspiracy stretching back to WW II. As related in Smilla's sober, no-nonsense narration, the plot acquires credibility even as its details become more bizarre. While the novel will probably be compared to Gorky Park , Hoeg has much more to offer, both in terms of his impeccable literary style and in the glimpses he provides of an utterly foreign culture. Its chief virtue, however, is the narrator: Smilla is never less than believable in her contradictions--caustic, caring, thoughtful, impulsive, determined and above all, rebellious. Smoothly translated by Nunnally, this is Hoeg's third novel, but the first to appear in English. A dark, taut, compelling story, it's a real find. 40,000 first printing; $50,000 ad/promo; BOMC selection.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (October 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385315147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385315142
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (298 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #83,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 93 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
I read a review of Smilla in the New York Times Book Review the year it was published and was completely intrigued by it. I found it on a clearance rack for around 2 dollars a few years later, and have been reading it ever since. It is one of the few books that I take wherever I travel. Smilla is not always a nice person; most of the time her past envelopes her present and makes her almost unlikeable. The other characters in the novel, the mechanic, her father, the coroner and the blind linguist are so well written that you begin to feel that you know them. I can't agree with the 2/3's assessment,because I find it gripping to the end, even though I have read it many times. The atmosphere of Copenhagen in winter, the language of snow and ice, and the mystery surrounding a young boy's death may not move ahead like an American mystery, but the slow unraveling of the plot is perfect for a novel set in a country where life is lived at a different pace than ours.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Larry L. Looney on January 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I probably wouldn't have read this book if it had not been gifted to me at Christmas by my best friend - she had seen the film, and knowing how much I like to read, felt that it would be `right up my alley'...and once again, she was right in her judgment concerning my tastes. One of the quotes on the back cover (from The New Yorker) puts this novel ` the league of Melville or Conrad' - while I'm not sure I would go quite that far, Høeg is a fine writer, and his talents for keeping the reader in suspense as he spins this tale are pretty impressive.
The central character, Smilla, is of mixed Greenlandic and Danish parentage - and the conflicts between those two cultures, one colonial, one native, are alive within her constantly. The dialectic that exists between these two forces - which has so often transformed and rent the fabric of human society - tears at her life. She is a strong-willed, intelligent woman who is not really sure what she wants or expects from life - she trusts her instincts, but not necessarily her heart. When she comes upon the body of her six-year-old neighbor Isaiah crumpled in the snow outside their apartment building, dead from a fall from the roof, she is immediately suspicious - and when the police almost instantly rule the death an accident, Smilla's initial doubts increase. They continue to do so almost exponentially as she begins to look into the case - and her investigation leads her into one dangerous situation after another.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Michael Albert Riccardi on October 25, 2001
Format: Paperback
Peter Hoeg proves that serious literature can be both entertaining and artful. On the surface, "Smilla's Sense of Snow" is genre fiction. But dig a little deeper, and there is a character study of great sensitivity, a setting with symbolic value and profound themes about loss. Unlike other densely-plotted thrillers, this book rewards re-reading
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Urbun Scrawler on August 25, 2010
Format: Paperback
I read all the reviews before writing my own because I was curious about the general consensus. People complained about the unsatisfactory ending, what they perceived as the author's intellectual showboating, as well as the narcissistic, cold-hearted selfishness of the main character. I understand the criticism leveled at the ending; I was looking for more resolution in terms of the main character's relationship to her rootless life, but ultimately I accepted that as part of the book, for better or for worse. On the other two counts I couldn't disagree more. What might be taken for pretentiousness is perhaps the author's expertise in many wide-ranging interests. And as for the main character--well, that was what drew me to this book and made it one of my all-time favorites. What I found interesting in the negative reviews was the almost angry vehemence with which readers built their case.

I first read this literary thriller when it was published in 1993. Smilla Jaspersen--half Greenlander, half Dane, an unconventional loner and brilliant scientist who struggles with her conflicted upbringing--is devastated when a young boy she has befriended mysteriously falls to his death from the roof of their apartment building. Unsatisfied that it was an accident, she follows a trail from Copenhagen to the bleak Arctic reaches to solve his murder. Since that time I've probably read it a half a dozen times--and not for the incantatory power of the prose. Don't get me wrong--the writing is terrific and the story is compelling, complex, and extraordinarily well-plotted--but what gripped me most about this book was the main character. And she still grips me.

Smilla is undoubtedly the first contemporary fictional female character who isn't a wife, mother, saint, or a whore.
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53 of 62 people found the following review helpful By David Ljunggren on January 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
Authors are all too often struck by the dreaded 'Two-thirds syndrome' -- the problem of how to maintain the suspense of a good book until the very end. All too often, about two-thirds of the way into a novel, you can almost hear the question reverberating around an author's head: "How on earth am I going to end this?" One of the best examples of this must be Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow, a mystery which also does a superlative job of charting the alienation of a Greenlander in Copenhagen. Just as you're gearing up for a fantastic conclusion, the author turns it into a cheap spy novel and ruins much of what he has achieved. I am still puzzled by how bad the ending of this book is when you consider what went before
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