Friday, March 21, 2008

Recent Reading: Peter Hoeg's Danish Thriller

The AltTulsa team takes its reading seriously, which is why we seek out a wide range of books and magazines, including the odd novel in translation.

Our most recent fictional encounter was the gripping and entertaining thriller, translated from the Danish as Smilla's Sense of Snow. We found an old copy of Peter Hoeg's novel at the recent Holland Hall book sale in Tulsa for a measly $4, a steal in hardback.

For some reason, we've always been fascinated by the title of this book and its promise of mystery. Who's Smilla? What is her "sense of snow"? What's this story about?

The answers to these questions are worth the time and effort, even in a 450-page novel. Smilla, it turns out, is a half-Inuit native of Greenland who makes it her business to find out why her 6-year-old Inuit neighbor in Copenhagen—a lad named Isaiah—fell from a rooftop and died.

The story is stuffed with odd characters and exotic locations, as well as a compellingly unorthodox quest. But Hoeg's primary achievement is the creation of Smilla Qaavigaaq Jaspersen, a tough and complex heroine worthy of his tale.

We happily recommend Smilla's Sense of Snow, the only novel you're ever likely to read about the sublime qualities of ice.