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Smilla's Sense of Snow

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  45,080 ratings  ·  2,423 reviews
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 buil
Paperback, 469 pages
Published October 1st 1995 by Delta (first published 1992)
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Karen Kocik I read about half way and kept getting bogged down in all the abstract way of writing. I am fairly adept at trudging through a difficult story but agr…moreI read about half way and kept getting bogged down in all the abstract way of writing. I am fairly adept at trudging through a difficult story but agree this was more challenging than I could bear. For a while I enjoyed the scientific explanations and did like how she could read the snow.(less)
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Average rating 3.75  · 
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 ·  45,080 ratings  ·  2,423 reviews

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Paul Bryant
Nov 05, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scandilit, novels
Miss Smilla and her cast of characters were so quirky that after 100 pages I found all this quirk over the front of my shirt, all over the dining table (well, I call it a dining table) and stuck between the keys on my keyboard. Had to get it out with a Swiss Army knife, once it had dried. Sent a sample off to the lab and the results came back "two parts David Lynch, three parts frankly unbelievable heroine, three parts uninvolving plot which moves at the speed of an exhausted glacier". As I thou ...more
Steven Godin
Smilla Jaspersen, a Greenlander by birth now residing in Copenhagen, late thirties, single, lonely, moody, depressive, seemingly with a grudge against everything, the sort of girl you would take on a first date, ask to be excused to go to the bathroom only you make for the exit.
But somewhere in the perpetual darkness she finds it in her heart to investigate the death of Isaiah, a small boy she befriended in her apartment block, who apparently fell of the roof whilst playing in the snow, but Smil
Aug 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: glaciologists. or anybody who likes an intriguing, well-written story.
Shelves: favourites
Smilla is, I think, my hands-down favourite fictional character. Which makes it easy for me to keep returning to this book. It's a translation from Danish (by Tiina Nunnally) and beautiful and technical and never sentimental, and it touches on issues I find particularly interesting such as European culture versus aboriginal culture (in this case Danish vs. Greenlandic) and the related issues of language and identity. Peter Hoeg has a mind that is both scientific and whimsical and I find that par ...more
It took me two months to finish this book and not until the last three weeks and 150 pages of that endeavor did I realize that it is actually quite terrible. It's been quite awhile since I've felt so cheated, nay--betrayed--by a novel. Because when you begin this book it is primarily concerned with the slow unfolding of character. You are tied to the titular Miss Smilla and her cynical absolutist world view. It doesn't take long to figure out that she has no interest in providing you with a fair ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it did not like it
Book Review, Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow

I've been wanting to read this book for over two decades and was glad when I finally got my hands on it. I expected great things of it, not the least because it had been recommended, back at school, by my beloved and sadly deceased teacher. I really, really wanted to like it.

I did like it for about the first hundred pages or so. The tenderness of the relationship between Smilla and the little boy, her memories of her mother, that was interesting. Then i
Mar 05, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one peculiar read. Yes, it (kinda) defies convention (its protagonist, Smilla Jaspersen, is a breath of fresh air & the way she deals with depression & inner demons in a place that simply screams KILL YOURSELF! is both invigorating and poetic) but it is exactly this unpredictability that juxtaposes reader's feelings and reading styles... so much so that not everything matches up evenly at the end. The squirts of poetry and metaphysics in a story that is all intuition on the part of the o ...more
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
After an initially over-enthusiastic 5 stars (which prompted consternation from some parties!) and then a too-sober 3 stars, I'm settling on four stars for this intelligent, brooding, minutely researched, acutely observed thriller. I think I wanted to give it five stars for two reasons: I read some negative reviews on this very webpage, and, finding them idiotic, wanted to vindicate this novel. I also cannot get out of my head the image of the Swiss German cook Urs using a freshly baked, burning ...more
Jan 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting and somewhat convoluted thriller, whose laconic prose and narrative voice kept me interested even when the pacing (which is a bit uneven) was a little off. It's really that narrative voice that raises this a notch above your standard genre thriller, although the end did partake somewhat disappointingly in convention.

Overall, another good Frozen Fiction read.
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before I visited Europe, my friends would all tell me to visit Copenhagen. They said that it’s one of the most beautiful European cities and the Danes are the friendliest people in Europe. Well, not in this book. Copenhagen is a dark, cold and corrupt place and the Danes, a shifty, secretive and lethal bunch.

Enter Smilla, one of the more interesting protagonists I’ve come across, who is half Danish and half Inuit. Here lies the dichotomy of her character: she’s never truly comfortable with who s
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was ok
I feel like everyone I know (even my doctor, who spotted it poking out of my bag) loved this book. And I just don't get it.

Smilla makes me think of Lisbeth Salander, who was the reason I hated "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," and I think the two books have a lot in common. They're both, at their cores, books which say "this woman is real weird and kind of unpleasant and seems like she might not bathe frequently, but everyone who meets her thinks, 'damn, you's one cool chick.'" Why do they thin
Feb 23, 2012 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like overly complicated thrillers
Smilla's Sense of Snow wasn't what I was expecting. It was not so bad a book that I could fairly say that I was disappointed but I wasn't left satisfied after the reading experience either.

First off the hero of the story is a half Greenlander who thinks back on her Greenland heritage. Her knowledge of snow and ice, acquired in childhood, are important to the plot, but this is a book written by a Dane. Once we get into the exploration of issues around colonialism then it starts to feel a little c
Jun 18, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who wonder what it's like to have a feeling for snow and ice
Smilla, half Kalaallit, half Dane, is taciturn and withdrawn—a wounded child grown into a dark, silent, often bitter woman. But she opens her heart to Isaiah, a young boy whom life has also wounded. When Isaiah dies, falling several stories from the snow-covered roof of a warehouse, she is forced out of her comfortable isolation to ask questions. Why had he climbed the scaffolding to play on the warehouse roof when he was terrified of heights? Why do his tracks go straight off the edge if he was ...more
Gary Guinn
Aug 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Smila’s Sense of Snow, by Peter Hoeg, was published in Danish in 1992 (in English in 1993). I’ve been a fan of Nordic Noir for several years, but somehow missed this one. I’m glad I finally stumbled across it. The main character, Smila, is perhaps the most interesting character I’ve read in a long time. More important than all other characteristics is the fact that she is a Greenlander living in Denmark. Her situation frequently reminded me of the struggle of Native Americans living in white Ame ...more
Actual rating: 3.5 stars.

I can see why this is on so many of the “Books You Must Read” lists—it is not your typical Nordic Noir. In fact, it may have helped to define that genre. Høeg gives us a mystery, but certainly not the now-stereotypical format of a mystery story. For one thing, Smilla is a civilian, not associated with the police in any way. Also, the mysterious aspect of this story doesn’t really seem to be the centre of the work—I think that Høeg was much more interested in the colonial
Nordic noir avant la lettre? I bought this kind of by accident at a charity shop. If I’d realized it was essentially a murder mystery, I never would have taken a chance on this 1992 international bestseller. That would have been too bad, as I think it’s much more interesting than your average crime thriller (she says snobbishly). For one thing, the narrator and would-be detective is Smilla Jaspersen: a 37-year-old mathematician and former Arctic expedition navigator with a Danish father and Gree ...more
It's the first decade of the 21st century. A chill, icy wind blows in from the North, carrying with it a sociopolitical narrative of lands British and American observers have long idealized as incorporating the social democratic ideal. The icy wind that hits American shores howls through us, unprepared as we are, and dismantles one by one our precious concept of a world region that we have lazily lumped together into a bucket named Scandinavia.

We shiver.

This first decade of a new century has br
This was the third book I took with me for the Second Annual Cat-Sitting event at my brother's place. He has the unfortunate luck of having his birthday in the middle of August, the hottest time of the year, and he goes off to have adventures with his lady-friend, giving me the opportunity to sit in his very hot house that does not have air conditioning to keep an eye on his cats, take advantage of his streaming Netflix, and read until my eyes bleed.

Last year one of the books I took with me was
This cult classic has a lot of things going for it. Miss Smilla is a stylish, engaging heroine with terrific dress sense, dark wit, courage under fire and fluency in Greenlandic. (I believe it's West Greenlandic if you care about that kind of thing). At one point, she performs an imaginative sex act that I've never seen described in any other place. There's a brooding sense of menace and a weird conspiracy that gradually comes together...

I don't know why I'm so bothered by the fact that the stor
Andrew Nixon
Jul 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Complex characters, dizzying plot, starkly beautiful language, and tremendous psychological insights.
Christopher Paolini
Oct 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Not science fiction as the genre is commonly understood, but it still fits firmly within the overarching category. The greatest strength of the book is Smilla’s character. Høeg perfectly captures what it feels like to be an outsider: something that so many attempt and fail. I would go further and argue that Smilla did everything that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was trying to do . . . only better and about thirteen years earlier. What’s more, the film adaptation of Smilla really matches t ...more
Tynan Power
Aug 25, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I picked up this book for free, because it was a title I knew I'd heard. Once I started reading it, I was initially put off by the narrator/protagonist, Smilla, whose tone is aloof, cool, self-absorbed. I was also put off by realizing it is a mystery that borders on "thriller"...not my usual preferred genre.

However, I found myself drawn back to the book until I became engrossed in the story. About halfway through the book, I started underlining passages, turns of phrase that I liked, observation
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foreign-authors
I found this a long and difficult book to read. Before deciding to read this book for the summer read athon, I checked out some of the reviews. The reviews were very polarised, two camps, loved it or hated it. Not to be put off I chose to purchase and read this for the Christmas, Snow theme. What I didn't bargain for was a long winded dissertation on the plight of Inuits living in Greenland under Danish rule. This just went on and on. As for the heroin, Smilla Jarpersen, what a depressing, reclu ...more
Jan 28, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Women who like to read about tough women
I first saw the film. You couldn't find it in the video store under "Smilla" because it was translated (into Serbian) as "Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow." No, this is not Serbian originality: the British translation is the one with "feeling", the US one is "sensible." But it's the same book.
I guess I never knew that Greenland was a Danish province, or shall we say, a colony. So here is a book that draws together a number of interesting threads: murder mystery, post-colonialism, immigration, scie
Aug 03, 2013 rated it did not like it
Oh my, this book is bad. The premise is an interesting enough hook - a boy has fallen off a snow laden roof. The police file it as an accident, but Smilla, with an extraordinary feeling for snow, thinks not. Smilla's intuition that a banal letter found in the boy's apartment about his mother's pension might hold a clue to the boy's death leads her to Elsa Lubing, signee of the letter. Elsa gives Smilla the key and secret code that allow her to break into the Cryolite Corporation's archives holdi ...more
It was an intense read. It had me confused from time to time. The emotional apathy and disconnection of the characters confused me here and there. For instance, people want to kill each others and then sit out on the deck of a ship and smoke a cigarette together.

The death of a little boy had an emotionally-challenged woman, Miss Smilla, who knew everything about snow and ice, start asking questions. In the process she unknowingly opens up a can of worms...Yes, definitely worms...

It was not a hi
Apr 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kirsten by: 1994 Silver Dagger Award winner
Shelves: book-to-screen
An excellent and intelligent thriller. Set in Denmark and Greenland, you should probably make sure you are wearing your kamiks!

This is the second of the author's books I've read, the first being The Quiet Girl. I think I would really have enjoyed listening to this one, as I'm never sure how to pronounce all those words with the O's with the lines through them.

Also, I did have a little problem following all the names and characters. I'm sure I missed some detail or other.

It was a wonderful thrill
One snowy day in Copenhagen, six-year-old Isaiah falls to his death from a city rooftop.The police pronounce it an accident. But Isaiah's neighbour, Smilla, an expert in the ways of snow and ice, suspects murder. She embarks on a dangerous quest to find the truth, following a path of clues as clear to her as footsteps in the snow. ...more
Found this sorting out my stored books... Don't remember a thing... So, I guess it was a 2-star. ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Dec 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books (Thrillers); 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, thriller
Interesting read. My first time to read a book from Denmark and originally written in Danish. My first time to read some facts about Greenland and the Arctic Circle. My first time to learn many things about snow. Oh snow! I have not seen snow-covered ground. Neither have I seen snow falling from the sky. This book made me want to go to Greenland and learn all the things Smilla Jasperson knows and senses about snow.

The story is about Smilla, who is half-Danish (father) and half-Greenlander (mothe
Dec 02, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favourite exciting stories to read. Once you get in to it it is hard to stop reading. Everytime I read it I discover something new. It starts out with just a small event in Denmark - a boy have died in an accident. But one of the neighbours, Smilla from Greenland refuses to buy the police explanation and sets out on a quest to find the truth about her friend. Because Smilla is from Greenland she knows all these things about snow that the police and most of the rest of us don't ...more
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Peter Høeg was born in Copenhagen, Denmark. Before becoming a writer, he worked variously as a sailor, ballet dancer, and actor. He published his first novel, A History of Danish Dreams (1988), to positive reviews. However, it was Smilla’s Sense of Snow (1992), a million-copy best seller, that earned Høeg immediate and international literary celebrity. His books have been published in more than th ...more

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