Friday, 11 January 2013

Fröken Smillas Känsla för Snö/Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg (2/5)

First published: 1992
Original title:
Frøken Smillas fornemmelse for sne
Original language: Danish
Translation to Swedish by: Ann-Mari Seeberg, 1994
Page count: 445

GoodReads says: 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...

I say: I have both a Swedish and en English edition of this novel, but thought I’d read it in Swedish as it was for uni and it makes quoting easier. However, having finished it I doubt that I’ll ever touch my English edition as I didn’t particularly like this.

I don’t like crime novels, so this was doomed from the start. What I do like is challenging myself, and studying literature I have to do that a lot, so I started off with an open mind, and I actually liked the beginning.

I have to point out that the Swedish synopsis isn’t nearly as dramatic as the one on Goodreads, but there you go.

What I liked about this novel was all the information about Greenland, of which I knew nothing but its location. It was really interesting to hear about the culture, the hunting, and also about the way it was colonised. Knowing so little about the country I didn’t know that it was treated by its settlers (the Nordic countries and America, mostly) like most other ex-colonial countries. It was also interesting (and aggravating) to learn about how the Greenlanders were discriminated against in Denmark.

Another thing element that I liked was that about snow, ice and the weather. Smilla learned at an early age how to read the different signs left in snow; the different types of ice; and the way the weather works in general. Usually when I see a footprint in the snow I go “someone’s been here already,” whereas Smilla went “someone was running.”

I wish I could do that.

What I didn’t like was pretty much everything else. Smilla is trying to find out who might be responsible for the boy’s death, and in that search she uncovers a lot.

And it was all utterly unbelievable.

I couldn’t even retell it if I wanted to (which I don’t) because the story was so complicated and I lost interest about 100 pages in, but I had to continue. There would be pages of boring information that went completely over my head – mostly because I’d lost interest in the story and was merely analysing the way it was written – and then there’s be a few pages of something really actiony that would draw me in, and then white nose for a few pages, a few flashbacks, some info about snow/ice, and the boring information.

It was a tedious read if ever I encountered one.

I don’t have much to say about the writing, other than it was a surpassingly literary novel; usually crime novels aren’t that literary and you just plough through them, but this one was quite skilfully written, and I would have loved it if it weren’t for that damn murder to be solved.

I don’t know much anything about Høeg, but I wouldn’t mind reading more of his work – as long as it’s not crime.

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