Smilla's Sense of Snow: A Novel

This noir thriller (480 pages) was published in October of 1995 by Delta. The book takes you to Denmark and Greeland. Melissa read Smilla's Sense of Snow and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

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Smilla's Sense of Snow

A Novel

Peter Høeg, Tiina Nunnally (translator)

Grab a blanket and add a slug of whiskey to your tea: This immigrant story — masquerading as a breathless thriller — is set in the bone-chilling cold of Copenhagen and Greenland.

Our (anti)hero Smilla Jasperson is an Inuit who spent her childhood in Greenland, and she possesses an innate ‘feeling for snow.’ A little prickly and a lot introverted, she’s much more comfortable with mathematics and solitude than she is with people and feelings.

But her 6-year-old neighbor has made small cracks in her icy resolve, beginning to thaw her defenses and create fissures in her heart that she thought were permanently closed. We experience Smilla’s tender relationship with the boy in flashbacks, and as she grows to care about him, we soften toward her. When the boy is found dead — presumably from a fall from the roof of their Copenhagen apartment building — she’s convinced that something more sinister is going on.

This black-as-pitch mystery moves at a good clip, and its atmosphere seeps into your bones like an imperceptible draft under the door. The foreboding location is another character in the story, reflecting both Smilla’s peril and the ache she carries alongside her fortitude.

As she pokes around in dangerous places to uncover the truth, Smilla is forced to confront the bias against Greenland Inuits, the privileges of Danish colonial society, the resentments in her family, and her own undeniable need for human connection.

Do you know what the mathematical expression is for longing? … The negative numbers. The formalization of the feeling that you are missing something. — Peter Høeg

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