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Smilla's Sense of Snow
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on June 4, 2014
Now have the hardback version, kindle version, and the film on DVD. What can I say? I love this book. The female protagonist, Smilla has a rich inner life and her thought processes are even more compelling than the action in the novel. This is a thinking person's book. My other top ten books of all time are not fiction and yet Smilla's Sense of Snow has remained on the list for two decades or so. Smilla is a character than cannot be experienced in the film, since so much of the novel is in the first person. The author Peter Hoeg is able to use Smilla to explore complex subjects of parent-child relationships, grief and loss, the sense of being an outsider in one's world, self-sufficiency, self-awareness, etc. I cannot help but be smitten by Smilla's mind. It is amazing to me how real Smilla seems to me as a person. Not as a fictional woman as written by a man, but as a real living, breathing person. I believe that Peter Hoeg has never written anything better. Of course, I am merely a reader and not a literay critic, but I will always love the spirit and resilience of Smilla, even if I can only meet her in this novel. BTW, her fascination with Euclidean geometry, snow, and ice is also an enjoyable and important part of who she is. Being an American, and not experiencing the class discrimination of Groenlanders in modern Danish society, I cannot comment on that, but I can see simitlarities that occur with all marginalized citizens of any society. This book is well worth reading for multiple reasons. I would give it 6 or 10 stars if I could ....
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on December 3, 2014
I liked the character of Smilla. She reminded me of Elizabeth Salander, the character I liked in the Dragon Tattoo series. . The story was told in an unusual fashion. Often Smilla would be describing a present scene in the first person and then the author would backtrack to provide the details and build an understanding of what Smilla was experiencing. There were a little too many details about the ship in the last 1/3 of the story but I skimmed through some of those descriptive passages. The characters were well developed and the plot was interesting. The ending was quite improbable but worked well enough. I enjoyed the historical and cultural references.
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on August 1, 2016
Captures your interest at first, but then really flags in the middle and the ending is terrible. It just seems to get lost halfway through. The entire section of the book on the ship could have been deleted with no loss, and the ending should have been developed more. I stuck with it to find out what the big mystery was, only to be very disappointed. And then the book just ends, without finding out what happens to the mechanic or any other character.
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on March 16, 2018
I first read this book years ago. I had forgotten how much I'd enjoyed it. I wish that Peter Hoeg had chosen to do a series of novels with Smilla as the central character. She would have been the female version of Harry Hole of Jo Nesbo's novels. Regardless, I highly recommend this book for anyone who enjoys the darker atmosphere of Scandinavian crime novels.
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on April 2, 2018
if you like detail and interesting viewpoints, this is the book for you. I personally learnt a great deal about snow from the character who is from Greenland. There is much detail regarding the culture of Greenlanders vs. the Danes. I found it enthralling and I love learning about cultures around the world.
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on October 5, 2015
Beautiful writing. Intelligent plot. Never believed understanding snow, ice, tides, shipping and Greenland could result in something so thought provoking. This book gets under your skin. It finds a place in your memories. I'm a tough review person. Would have given 5 stars if some things had been wrapped up a little tighter. Thanks Peter Hoeg.
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on September 9, 2016
Maybe it's the translation...but this book is really not my style of writing. Not interesting and, frankly, some passages I find disgusting. Not going to torture myself with this one.
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on October 21, 2012
Both author and translator are extraordinarily talented. I found myself highlighting passage after passage in this book just for the sheer beauty of the writing. Consider this description of how the sea freezes: "The water grows viscous and tinged with pink, like a liqueur of wild berries. A blue frog of frost smoke detaches itself from the surface of the water and drifts across the mirror. Up out of the dark sea the cold now pulls a rose garden, a white blanket of blossoms formed from salt and frozen water."

It is also worth noting that petite scientist Smilla is the angriest thriller protagonist I have ever encountered, once she gets going. She makes Dirty Harry look like Charlie Brown by comparison. The novel builds, methodically and with increasing speed, toward a thunderous climax.

As several readers have noted, the tinge of science fiction toward the end of the narrative seems extraneous and unnecessary, but the book is so strong in every other respect that I didn't mind at all.
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on April 13, 2014
An attempt to learn more about a friend's death slowly unravels a very complex mystery. The book has all the hallmarks of a great thriller from love and hate to shock and betrayal. That plus an unusual setting around the arctic circle makes the book a worthwhile read. However the pacing is slower than most mystery thrillers that become best sellers and with all the details used, the reader doesn't become as emotionally involved as I would have liked. All in all a good book....but not a must-read
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VINE VOICEon January 5, 2009
I've counted six authors to whose prose Hoeg's has been compared, just in reading the first page of reviews here. They are all, to a one, terrible comparisons. The one I expected and, inexorably, found, was the comparison to Hemingway. This is because the prose is genuinely hard-hitting. But Hemingway's is not so. Hemingway's prose is studiedly hard-hitting. In other words, Hemingway's prose is a sham. Smilia, as narrator, is anything but a Hemingway character, standing aside watching bullfights with sadistic pleasure. Hoeg/Smilia is like the polar bear Smilia describes as being the only animal that does no grow tense with the rigor of the flight/fright reaction because it has never had any natural enemies. So you don't expect the punches when they land, as you do with Hemingway. The first droll punch is landed at the beginning of chapter Three, "It's the kind of day that might make you wonder about the meaning of life, and discover that there is none." Nice. And, lest you let your guard down, another roundhouse is delivered unexpectedly several pages later as Smilia describes her relation with her father, "And the mood he brought with him, which was the sum of the feelings he had for my mother; The same kind of soothing warmth that you might expect to find in a nuclear reactor." Another nice one, Smilia. These nice jabs are in the first hundred pages in the first, and best, part of the book, The City, where Hoeg has Smilia as narrator pull off the impressive feat of giving you the background of her life while weaving her way through a maze of questions and emotions.

On the other hand, Hoeg is no Conrad. Smilia's introspective musings have their limits and limitations. By the second part, The Sea, one begins to become bored with Smilia's shipmates attempting to toss her into the drink every few pages, inevitably overcome, of course, by Smilia's omnicompetence at getting herself out of each and every scrape with a display of a new set of skills. As for the ending, about which many here complain, I would have been sorely disappointed had Hoeg NOT left us in limbo. But people (Amazon reviewers included) prefer Hollywood endings. Thus the frustration vented here.

There are any number of Smilia's musings which I could set down here. They add spice and nuance to what would otherwise be a typical taut, suspense thriller. While not exactly an intellectual, Smilia is nothing if not cerebral. And readers who prefer not to think best look elsewhere. But I can't quote them all. I think the most indicative cerebration, the one that summarises Smilia's outlook and perspective throughout the book, her constant challenging of the reader and herself is the following:

"Deep inside I know that trying to figure things out leads to blindness, that the desire to understand has a built-in brutality that erases what you seek to comprehend. Only experience is sensitive."

I had fun reading this book, rolling with the punches, learning much about natural phenomena and the worlds of Greenland and Denmark. But I don't feel particularly enlightened after putting it down. It's better than the pseudo-literary: Hemingway. But it's not a work of art: Conrad.

Still, a very enjoyable read - especially the first section - with fast, at times splendid prose that is deft on its feet. Recommended for all those who love this sort of thing, are equipped with minds and aren't afraid of descriptions of parasitic worms.
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