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Smilla's Sense of Snow [Paperback]

Peter Hoeg
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (140 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite and dreamlike June 19 2003
This book doesn't have a genre. It's just literature, and it's good literature. Sometimes it seems to be the general opinion that if a book is entertaining it cannot possibly be a work of art. "Smilla's Sense Of Snow" is another book that proves it to be wrong.
The most surprising thing about the book is its genuine feeling, its incredibly surreal and yet exquisitely natural flow. Nowadays most authors feel the need to set a fast pace so that the reader doesn't get bored. And, indeed, people have learned to hurry. "Smilla's Sense Of Snow", however, allows one to look around, actually experience things, not just rush through them. The book seems strangely dreamlike, reading it is a lot like moving through water - you are awed by the alternate world that can be found underwater, and you cannot move swiftly, and after some time you learn to understand the water and appreciate the beauty of simply being.
When it comes to women, literature is full of clichés. Peter Hoeg's Smilla is certainly not one of them; she is original to say the least. Still, the essence of woman is there. One cannot help but wonder at the way a man has been able to create a woman who's very unlike most women in literature (or life, indeed) so perfectly that she doesn't need to be feminine to convince the reader she is one, even when the reader happens to be female.
"Smilla's Sense Of Snow" is a fascinating book. Books such as this one are rare nowadays.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical Robin Cook-ish whodunit. April 29 2002
It was a cold, bleak November day. The noiseless, lackluster streets of Copenhagen lie covered in blankets of freshly-fallen snow. Why, if you could imagine the scene, you would almost be tempted to describe it as "tranquil." But tranquil it isn't, for somewhere along one of these whitened, desolate streets of Copenhagen lies the lifeless body of six-year-old Isaiah Christiansen. Ruled an "accidental" death by the local police officials who were convinced that the young boy slipped and fell while playing on the roof of his apartment building, Isaiah was eventually laid to rest. But in the mind of Smilla Jasperson, Isaiah's close friend and neighbor, there were still too many unanswered questions evolving the little boy's death. From day one, thirty-seven-year-old Smilla never believed that Isaiah's death was a mere accident. Telltale signs left by Isaiah's footprints on the snowy rooftop had all but convinced Smilla that little Isaiah--who was petrified of heights and would never have willingly gone up on the roof in the first place--had met up with foul play and she was determined to seek out the truth even if it killed her. What really happened up there on the roof that blustery November day? Who could possibly have wanted this innocent child dead? And why? What secrets did Isaiah carry with him to his grave? Readers will slowly but surely find the answers to these questions (and more) as they embark on an endless and treacherous journey alongside Smilla as she puts forth all efforts in searching for the truth behind Isaiah's untimely death.
This novel was the first I've ever read by the Danish writer, Peter Hoeg. I bought it after a friend of mine (whom I admire for his exquisite taste in literature) highly recommended it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent and Fast-Paced Mystery March 10 2002
By A Customer
Smilla's Sense of Snow is an intelligent and fast-paced mystery. Although the many subplots and diversions are all ultimately tied to the main plot, they are, at times, quite confusing.
I thought the character of Smilla Jasperson was quite well-drawn, although she sometimes accomplished physical feats the seemed impossible. I didn't particularly like Smilla, but I did find her both memorable and unique. Sadly, the character of the mechanic, who was quite fascinating, was terribly sketchy. In my opinion, this book would have benifitted greatly had the mechanic been more fully fleshed-out.
Personally, I enjoyed reading all the details of the snow and ice, but there were so many of them I think some readers were no doubt bored with it all and probably began skimming over them. This would have been a mistake because, to some extent, it was necessary to understand these details in order to understand the book.
I've noticed that many readers had problems with the ending of this book. I didn't. I thought the ending fit the story perfectly. It was quite complicated and would have been confusing to anyone who wasn't following the story carefuly, but it was perfect.
For me, the most annoying thing about this book was the translation. I found many words used out of context and worse, meaningless phrases and sentence fragments thrown in here and there. It was quite annoying. The author is such a skilled and intelligent writer, I can't believe this was done deliberately in the original Danish.
If you like classy, intelligent thrillers and are willing to absorb a wealth of detail, you're sure to love this book. Readers looking for something light and relaxing should probably skip this least for now.
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3.0 out of 5 stars not serious in the end Jan. 23 2002
There was a time back in the mid 90s when this book first came out in paperback when I couldn't seem to go anywhere without running into a colleague who was reading this book. That struck we as ironic, since I am a scientist and this book is virulently anti-science and anti-technology.
Smilla's mother seems to represent a sort of aboriginal virtue while her father represents the decadence of civilization. Smilla is split right down the middle, which leaves her exactly nowhere. She is the ultimate outsider, at home in neither the frozen wilderness of her mother's homeland nor the swishy cocktail-party universe of her father's world (he is a famous surgeon). I suppose that Hoeg wanted Smilla to represent all of us in some way. Her mother is our "good" pre-industrial self and her father is our "bad" technological self. I am told that Mr. Hoeg is fond of walking the winter streets of Copenhagen in his bare feet on occasion. He is an eccentric and perhaps even a crank with a axe to grind. He is, however, also a very good writer.
He apparently also isn't all that fond of his reading public. This book would seem to me to be a send-up of both the mystery and thriller genres, the two genres that are consumed by the largest slice of the reading public. He is really making fun of that audience by giving them a mystery that doesn't have much of a resolution and a thriller that has all the plot elements of one of those silly movies that they (used to) make fun of on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
So the book ends up being frustrating because Hoeg can't really seem to help writing well and yet the structure and plot of the book are essentially a joke. Oh, and the movie was even worse, although I liked seeing Copenhagen in a film for the first time.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars over-rated read
This was a MAJOR disappointment. Firstly - Smilla as the narrator just blabs on and on. We are taken back and forth, attempting to follow her train of thought. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lynne Frappier
5.0 out of 5 stars I love Smilla
Saw the film a long time ago, and it haunted me.
Bought the VCR version about a year ago, and watched it a couple of times.
It was as good as I remembered. Read more
Published on April 30 2011 by Renald Shoofler
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing and thrilling to the end!
The negative reviews on this book say more about those readers than the book itself: the reader's pleasure in this thriller IS in the intellectual guessing. Read more
Published on Jan. 3 2004 by M. Cottafavi
3.0 out of 5 stars If you are able to concentrate ...
To understand what is going in this novel you have to read every line of every page from the first page to the last page without blinking. Read more
Published on June 4 2002 by M. Tomlins
2.0 out of 5 stars About as interesting as watching water freeze
Smilla's seems to be the only person who realizes that the death of a young boy is not an accident, and she persues the truth relentlessly, and I mean relentlessly, until she... Read more
Published on March 5 2002 by Susan E. Hallander
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointing-over a book I looked forward to reading
I felt the book began well with the first few chapters,
but the middle 400 plus pages dragged on, and really did
not have any "technothriller" or mystery... Read more
Published on Feb. 23 2002 by david
1.0 out of 5 stars Give the book to Hades
When I have started reading this book Smilla's Sense of Snow I really thought it would be interesting...I thought wrong. Read more
Published on Jan. 31 2002 by StarbucksQueen101
3.0 out of 5 stars Great start - disappointing ending
"Smilla's Sense of Snow" starts off as a mystery and ends as a thriller. I liked it better while it was a mystery. The ending was a huge letdown! (... Read more
Published on Dec 4 2001 by "affefrau"
5.0 out of 5 stars A thinking person's thriller
Peter Hoeg proves that serious literature can be both entertaining and artful. On the surface, "Smilla's Sense of Snow" is genre fiction. Read more
Published on Oct. 25 2001 by Michael Albert Riccardi
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