Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Smilla's Sense of Snow, by Peter Høeg
The book starts with the death of a little boy, Isaiah, who lives in the same building as Smilla Jaspersen in Copenhagen with his alcoholic mother. He had plunged from the roof of the building, leaving behind only footprints. Smilla, knowing that Isaiah had a fear of heights, and examining the footprints, realized that there's no way that Isaiah would be on the roof intentionally...so she begins to try to sort out the mystery of what happened. Her investigations take her into the dark and dangerous world of corporate secrets and conspiracies, but even with her freedom and life at stake, she has to get to the bottom of it all. But that's not all there is to this book. It's also an examination and critique of life in Greenland both before and after Denmark granted the Greenlanders home rule in 1979 as well as an attempt to understand environmental changes affecting Greenland.
While the mystery starts out strong (I enjoy a good conspiracy-type thriller to a point), what really carries this book is Smilla's character -- she's like an early Lisbeth Salander (from The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) who doesn't let anyone get in her way. Smilla is a misfit and has an affinity for other misfits, and like the later Lisbeth, has her own sense of morality and justice. The thriller part of this book will keep you reading, but at some point it becomes kind of science-fiction-ish which for me was a bit of a problem. However, it's very readable and you won't want to give it up until it's over.
I'd recommend it mostly to fans of Scandinavian crime fiction. It's not your average thriller/suspense type of novel, and people who could care less about Greenland politics, culture and science may find it a little tough going. Otherwise, it's a good way to spend a few hours.