Mini- Review: Smilla's Sense of Snow

Smilla's Sense of SnowSmilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Publisher: Delta
Published: 1992/ 1995 (in English)
Synopsis (via goodreads.com):

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....

This is a very dense book, with a complicated protagonist as the narrator. Right from the beginning there's ample descriptions not only of snow, but math, science, tankers, yadda yadda, and I kept wondering why anyone would want to make this into a movie (1997).

When trying to find the movie on iTunes (because I remember hating it in 1997) I came across a "Banned Library Podcast" about the book. Normally they pick controversial books, but someone donated $$ and requested they talk about SSoS, so the podcaster forced himself to read it without paying close attention to some/ many details. (https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/b...)
At one point, when relating the (sometimes confusing) plot, the podcaster states, "I swear I'm still talking about the same book," which is hilarious because it was only when listening to him rehash the entire plot that I was like, "YA! A lot of sh*t DID happen!!" As he notes, the novel begins with a boy's murder and somehow <I can't hide the spoiler ending so I'm just going to say it's a thinker of an ending>. He then compares reading Smilla's Sense of Snow to watching an old woman drive a Cadillac; sometimes she speeds through red lights, which is exciting, and other times she drives painfully slow. (Basically this podcaster wasn't a huge fan.)

I personally really enjoyed the entire book, both for the action, the setting (Denmark/ Greenland), the half-Inuit protagonist's perspective of the world, and the intense descriptions. Granted, I learned WAY more about a huge tanker boat than I needed to, as it definitely took a lot of attention to read, but also kept my attention throughout. It is one of the most unique books I've read.

If someone hated this book, I think it's because it's not an easy read. There may be some parts that are lost in translation (e.g. certain shenanigans on the tanker, etc.) You definitely have to pay attention, there are a LOT of Danish names that get confusing, and Smilla's not an easy character to relate to. But she's a feisty one, and won't go down without a fight!

 ~ SJ

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