Customer Reviews


253 Reviews
5 star:
 (108)
4 star:
 (56)
3 star:
 (38)
2 star:
 (29)
1 star:
 (22)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read over and over, to enjoy on many levels
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...
Published on April 2, 2000 by lillercat

versus
47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic first two-thirds, abominably bad ending
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...
Published on January 23, 2000 by David Ljunggren


‹ Previous | 1 226 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

78 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read over and over, to enjoy on many levels, April 2, 2000
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TAUT AND COMPELLING, January 12, 2004
By 
Larry L. Looney (Austin, Texas USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (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 `...in 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.
The author balances the emotional with the sociological and the scientific elements nicely in this story - there are plenty of references to Smilla's inability to trust, and to love (and the reasons that lurk behind), background on the treatment of the Inuit people by the Danes (both in Greenland and in Denmark), and plenty of science as well. The author has done his homework. In the note about the author, it's mentioned that before turning to writing, he worked as a professional dancer, an actor, a sailor, a fencer and a mountaineer - and it's pretty evident that he pursued these activities with attention and zeal. You can see elements from several of them within this work.
The writing is intelligent, and flows very nicely - and Høeg is masterful in giving away just what he wants to give away as the story progresses. Fans of the literary thriller should give this novel a good, long look.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thinking person's thriller, October 25, 2001
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh, What Can You Do with a Girl Like That?, August 25, 2010
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (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. Imagine a grown-up cross between Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking--if they'd been kicked out of every school they ever attended, hitchhiked around the world, maybe did some low-level smuggling, and somewhere along the way managed to pick up a couple of graduate degrees. Smilla is clever, bold, smart, independent, funny, adventurous, slightly reckless, and feels no qualms about telling the men who get in her way to shove off. She's a boat-rocker, whistle-blower, a rule-breaker who thumbs her nose at authority and refuses to submit, like a well-behaved girl, to the ancillary role society would like her to play (e.g., wife, mother, saint, whore). Which, of course, drive the men whose power she challenges into a fury that makes them want to annihilate her. The irony is that she was created by a man.

But Smilla's rebellion does not come without intense self-scrutiny and the painful knowledge that she's a lone wolf; at one despairing point in the book she even calls herself a loser. She admits her freakishness, the fact that she cannot find deep connections with others. She usually refrains from getting involved with men because she's terrified of becoming too dependent, of losing herself. She's terrified of being vulnerable, of being loved, of being left. And yet despite all of her fears she plods forward. She laments her inability to make a permanent place for herself in the world, and yet that doesn't deter her from what she feels is her duty--to solve the death of a little boy who may be the one person to whom she had what came close to a true connection. But the greater, unspoken challenge is how to live in the world as a black sheep, particularly if you are a woman.

Perhaps the intense dislike some feel towards Smilla stems from her daring to challenge the established structure of society which, despite all the advancements women have made, still places men on top and women underneath. Men dislike her because they can't abide a woman who doesn't know her second place; women dislike her because it forces them to address the power they give away by seeking validation from men. Plus, the world does not show any love for those who tell the truth or root out corruption--they are, more often than not, eliminated in one way or other. And yet, without those who exposed secrets or took the unpopular stand, who took the heat and bucked convention, we'd still be toiling in some medieval gloom.

I also loved how Hoeg, in comparing Denmark to Greenland, underscores how the "progress" and "development" of the modern world have all but destroyed the integrity of ancient cultures, the beauty of the wilderness, and the deeply-ingrained rituals that lend meaning to life as well as binding people together. He weaves examples into the main plot as a kind of elegy to the world as it was before man's maniacal drive to improve it. Some improvements come to mind that did indeed improve the quality of life for mankind--fire, penicillin, and efficient farming methods--but there are so many more that can only make you weep.

Now, if only America would produce a heroine as bold, rebellious, and independent as Smilla Jaspersen--and her little sister, Lisbeth Salander.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


47 of 55 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic first two-thirds, abominably bad ending, January 23, 2000
By 
David Ljunggren (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (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
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite, November 12, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (Paperback)
This is one of the most wonderful books I have ever read. Yes, Smilla is a strange woman, but perhaps no stranger than any other human being if they are truly honest with themselves. Smilla questions her own humanity and her capacity to love, but answers those doubts in her actions. It is this very honesty combined with her love of snow that makes this book so intriguing. The passages about her chidhood are quite poignant and you can really feel the little girl inside the disappointed adult remembering her mother and understand the effects of loss and cultural schizophrenia. What is most remarkable is that a man tapped so deeply into the emotions that I suspect many women feel about themselves, their childhood and their attempts at adult relationships. The ending was not so much a disappointment as a deferral, as though someone came into the room, told the writer he had to pack to leave on a UFO and had 5 minutes to write the ending. However, in his defense, I truly did not expect Smilla and the Mechanic to go home, get married and have a few kids. The period spent on the ship is more technical and not quite as emotionally intimate as the earlier chapters, and felt credibility was stretched a bit, but it was still a wonderful story.
Interestingly, the temperature outside while reading this book was about 60 degrees. Despite polarfleece, heavy socks and a down comforter, I still couldn't get warm. This is a book that stays in your thoughts long after you put it down.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark and compelling, July 29, 2004
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (Paperback)
Smilla Jaspersen is half American and half Eskimo/Greenlander living in Denmark. She is 37, unmarried, and filled with a quiet caustic rage that overflows occasionally into determined action. She is also an expert, thanks to her Inuit mother, on the properties of snow and the significance of tracks left in snow.

Smilla is befriended by a pitiful child, Isiah, and the novel begins with the discovery of his body on the ground below a 7-story building, from the roof of which he apparently fell. But Smilla isn't so sure. For one thing, he was afraid of heights. For another, it appears that a needle biopsy of his leg muscle was taken after his death. But most of all, there are his tracks, only his, in the snow, but Smilla can see his panic, his running, his fear in the properties of those tracks.

Smilla is nothing if not determined, and she embarks on a quest to discover the truth behind the child's death, a quest that nearly costs her her own life.

Excellent, nail-biting suspense and powerful, literary-quality writing. Superb.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Unusal Thriller, July 26, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (Paperback)
A unigue premise, an unusual heroine, and the author's back-ground combine for a great book. Learn more about Greenland and

more words for snow than you ever thought you needed. This book

also contains one of the all-time-greatest lines ever spoken by

a character. Enjoy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly beautiful..., April 10, 2004
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (Paperback)
Even those writing laudatory reviews, here, ding this truly superior work for having a psychologically, rather than literally, explosive conclusion. I can only suggest that Hoeg is an author for whom theme is ever unfolding through his characters, and it is the characters to whom we must look here.
The character of Smilla, the heroine of this novel, is developed with such nurturing and painstaking clarity and depth that she is breathtaking. She is so sharply defined that even the remarkable mystery in which we meet her becomes secondary. This book is a work of art of the highest order and it may be read for style alone.
But make no mistake, this is a compelling story, which is intellectually demanding of the reader.
"Smilla's Sense..." is a story of the strength and determination required by social outsiders in sussing out the underlying motivations of people involved in normative systems of control, and protecting themselves from those systems and the people maintaining them. This novel is about power and survival. Like all of Hoeg's other novels, especially "Borderliners", "Smilla" takes us on a journey describing characters traveling the real and emotional dialectic of moving away from the social center as they are drawn into a deeper understanding of its aims and of its archetypes. Smilla discovers not just facts, but the mythos underlying them.
"Smilla's Sense of Snow" is an ontology of the marginalized psyche interlaced within a remarkable story of the lengths to which a system can be bent towards the individual ambition for power and control.
I hate to make comparisons, but a good summer's serious reading list might include this novel with titles such as Morrison's "Song of Solomon", Eco's "Foucault's Pendelum" and DeLillo's "Libra".
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A suspenseful read, August 27, 2001
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Smilla's Sense of Snow (Paperback)
This is not your typical mystery where there's blood and gore ~~ this is a mystery where there is a dead body that leaves a trail of clues for Smilla to find and a cliffhanger of a book that leaves you wanting more. It is superby written and translated very well ~~ I enjoyed Hoeg's descriptions of snow, ice and the studies of glaciers. I was left reaching for my blankets at night whenever I picked up this book ~~ it's so cold and so impersonal in the Artic! Smilla's neighbor Isiah was found in the snow dead. And Smilla thought there was something fishy about his death ~~ for one thing, the boy was terrified of heights. And there were other clues as well ~~ that lead Smilla on a terrifying chase for the truth. She didn't intend to play detective ~~ but she didn't trust the police in Denmark either, especially since Isiah was a Greenlander. I must say, if you need to read this book, read it on a hot, sweltering day. Don't read it in the wintertime as you'll never look at snow the same way! And I would recommend this book as a good mystery read ~~ but it's not your typical mystery either. It goes much further than that ~~ combine a good story with a good mystery and good writing ~~ you have a book that is enjoyable in every way!!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 226 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Smilla's Sense of Snow
Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Hoeg (Paperback - October 1, 1995)
$16.00 $13.12
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.